Mthethwa role in Marikana questioned

By Drum Digital
19 March 2013

The role Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa played before and after the August 16 shooting in Marikana was questioned at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday.

This came as national police commissioner Riah Phiyega was cross examined by evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga.

Madlanga asked what specific support the minister gave Phiyega on August 16.

Phiyega said: "He gave us political support."

Madlanga responded: "Am I right to say you cannot be specific on the political direction nor can you be specific on the political support you received from the police minister?"

Phiyega, dressed in a black skirt-suit with a yellow jacket, said: "I have said he has given us leadership, he has given us political support that enabled us to do our work."

Madlanga said Phiyega's evidence did not suggest any initiative made by the minister.

"What, if anything, did the minister of police do about the killings at Marikana?" Madlanga asked.

Phiyega responded: "My minister was personally here. The minister was part of the inter-ministerial committee that did a lot of work in the commission... In his political role he gave us political support."

However, Madlanga said he wanted to know what the minister did prior to the killings on August 16.

Once again, Phiyega referred him to her statement, adding that Mthethwa gave her and her operational team support, though he was not involved in operations.

The commission heard that it was necessary for Phiyega to inform Mthethwa about the "killing of human beings that are of an unusually high scale".

When asked if it was an "unusually high scale of killings in a small environment," Phiyega responded: "I do agree that it was significant."

Phiyega said she kept Mthethwa informed in her "normal reporting" to him on what was happening at Marikana through phone calls and internal notices and statements.

Madlanga tried to establish whether Phiyega had called Mthethwa by midnight on August 13 about the five people killed at Lonmin Platinum's Marikana mine. She kept referring him to her statement.

Phiyega said: "In my statements I mentioned dates and I have said that I continuously gave updates to the minister."

Madlanga responded: "General, this is a simple question... Did you inform the minister by midnight on August 13 of the five killings?"

Speaking softly, Phiyega said: "I informed the minister on what happened at Marikana since the ninth. I can't remember if I called him at 12 midnight on August 13."

Thursday last week was the first time Phiyega gave evidence on the role played by the police in the events leading up to and on August 16 last year.

On that day, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the police opened fire near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

Madlanga indicated that he would deal with the speech Phiyega delivered on August 17.

The hearings continue at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.

-by Sapa

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