Phiyega takes the stand at Marikana commission

2013-03-14 11:54

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National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega began her testimony at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry this morning.

Phiyega was initially scheduled to testify yesterday, but she only took the witness stand this morning following the conclusion of mine worker Mzoxolo Magidiwana’s three-week grilling.

The commission, which is investigating the circumstances that led to the deaths of 44 people during a strike by Lonmin mine workers last August, has previously seen video footage of Phiyega thanking police after they had shot and killed 34 mine workers.

In the video footage, shot by a police officer at a parade ground, Phiyega is heard saying the police should stay strong and that, as leadership, they recognised that they were going through challenging times.

“… whatever happened represents the best of responsible policing,” Phiyega told the officers. She said police had ensured that they maintained their oath of ensuring that all South African citizens are safe, “and that you equally are the citizens of this country and safety starts with you”.

“Thank you for what you did,” Phiyega said.

Phiyega faces a difficult time on the stand following evidence led before the commission last year that suggested police shot and killed surrendering mine workers at a koppie dubbed scene two, which was not accessible to journalists on site on August 16.

At least 18 of the 34 people who were killed on that day died at this scene, away from the glare of television and press cameras.

Another 16 of the mine workers were shot and killed near a cattle kraal, in a scene that was captured by the media.

Video footage taken by police officers on cellphone also suggests police went on a killing frenzy at scene two, testing their marksmanship and fire power on defenceless or surrendering mine workers.

Phiyega’s presence has attracted a huge media presence, including international news agencies and photographers. She is presently being led through her statement by police lawyer Ishmael Semenya.

The hearing continues.

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