Cops won't comment on Marikana 'cover-up'

2013-03-23 17:00
National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega. (File, Sapa)

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega. (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The SA Police Service (SAPS) on Saturday refused to comment on allegations made by the SA Human Rights Commission that police were covering up events surrounding the Marikana shooting. "The SAPS will not comment on speculation and conjecture regarding its submissions and account of events to the Marikana Commission," SAPS said in a statement.

"This is in deference to the commission and its mandate of determining the truth about the events of the tragic day.

"[General Riah] Phiyega and all SAPS witnesses who will testify at the commission will continue to do so guided by their conscience and oath of office."

The police called on individuals with evidence of wrongdoing against any parties involved to be submit it to the Farlam Commission.

On Friday, the SAHRC claimed that police and their management were covering up events surrounding the Marikana shooting.

It accused national police commissioner Phiyega of failing to mention a statement by police officer Hendrich Wouter Myburgh, which contradicted her assertion that police acted in self-defence.

Standing by her stance

"At best, the national commissioner was dishonest in saying that she had received no information to cause her to question the truth of her press statement that the police had acted only in self-defence," SAHRC representative Bonita Meyersfeld, director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, said in a statement.

"At worst, the fact that the police have never mentioned this evidence is indicative of a deliberate cover-up."

Phiyega told the commission of inquiry investigating the events surrounding the shooting in North West on 16 August that she stood by her stance that police acted in self-defence when they shot the miners.

During cross examination of Phiyega at the Farlam commission, evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga read a statement into the record by Myburgh about the shooting.

Myburgh said that after most of the shooting had stopped, he found three wounded people on the ground on the hill and continued to search for "other suspects".

"I suddenly heard a gunshot behind me. As I turned, I saw a NIU [national intervention unit] constable who is unknown to me putting his side firearm in his leg holster while he was standing next to the injured...," he said in the statement.

Drawing inferences

"I asked him [the NIU] constable what is going on. He replied by saying: 'They deserve to die' and he moved away."

The commission heard that the constable could not be identified or named.

Madlanga asked Phiyega whether, if Myburgh's evidence was indeed true, she would continue holding the view that the officers fired shots in self-defence.

"I'm consistent in my view that, given the sensitivity of the issue... I would be very, very cautious to answer such a question... It is difficult to say on this or that hypothesis," answered Phiyega.

The commission's chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, warned Phiyega that her "deliberate attempt to not answer a question" led to inferences being drawn.

Phiyega said she and her commanders had wanted to understand what had happened, but Myburgh could not give them more details to find or identify the NIU constable.

On 16 August, 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill 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.

Read more on:    police  |  sahrc  |  riah phiyega  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest

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