Phiyega: Cops acted in self-defence

2013-03-27 14:30

Rustenburg - National police chief Riah Phiyega maintained on Wednesday that police acted in self-defence when they opened fire on striking Marikana miners.

She was being cross-examined before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the shooting at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, on 16 August last year. Thirty-four miners were killed in the clash.

George Bizos, SC, for the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation, asked Phiyega to explain why there were no police casualties.


"With regard to those injuries, and the lack of any injury to any police officer, would you say the action of the police was proportional?" Bizos asked.

Phiyega said: "We are on record as saying indeed police were acting in self-defence. On the issue of proportionality [of the police’s action] I’m hoping that the debates from the experts, commanders and the outcome of this commission will give a judgment on that.

"I am not qualified and I am not comfortable to give an answer on the proportionality," she said.

Bizos said: "Don’t the figures [of the killed and injured protesters] mean anything to you, commissioner?

"There was not a single scratch on any one of the few hundred police officers and so many injuries [on protesters]. Do you say that is proportional?

"How did they manage to have not a single scratch if there was a threat as they describe? Please come to terms with the question. Was it (because) of the intelligent hand of the police? Doesn’t it sound strange to you?"

Phiyega replied: "I do want to say the police are trained. The police do their work professionally and I believe it is such elements which assist them to do their work in that manner."

Disagreements about numbers of armed men

Bizos responded that she did not answer the question. The police chief disagreed. Earlier, Bizos said there were disagreements about the number of armed men within the crowd of protesting mineworkers who gathered the Marikana koppie on 16 August.

"Do you agree with the allegation made by counsel for the police [Ishmael Semenya] that the problem was that [on 16 August] there were 3 000 belligerent protesters who were armed, resisting any effort to disarm?" Bizos asked.

"We have been told that there 3 000 people, elsewhere [lawyer for the police Ismael] Semenya put it to a witness that there were 200 to 300 protesters who were armed. There were others who were peaceful, unarmed and were left [in peace]. Which of the two versions did you, as commissioner, operate... on?"

Phiyega said: "I would not speculate on those two versions because I have not seen alternative facts. As police, people who are armed are a concern to us. Any number of armed people, be it two or seven, concerns us. The Constitution does allow people to protest peacefully and unarmed."

Bizos was not convinced. "Please answer the question. As the national commissioner, were your actions [at Marikana] premised on having to deal with 3 000 armed protesters or only two to three hundred? On what numbers did you base the decisions that you took?"

Phiyega said: "The important thing for me to say is, whether it's two armed people in protest, it bothers us as police. It is immaterial whether it is 300 or 3 000. Armed protesters are not allowed by the law."

  • KCorsar - 2013-03-27 14:39

    No Ma'am they were disorganised, under resourced and frankly panicked. This is clearly evident in the footage shown publically where you have officers firing live rounds THROUGH their own ranks. NO structured crowd / riot control does that. I am surprised there no friendly fire casualties, if there were these have been blamed on the miners clearly.

      Godfrey Welman - 2013-03-27 15:09

      As Commander in Chief, how can she say this "I am not qualified and I am not comfortable to give an answer on the proportionality," she said. Please fire het and appoint someone that is qualified to lead and command SAPS.

  • Michael Jackwood - 2013-03-27 14:42

    General Phiyega, you must stand by your statement, police are always found guilty in the court of public opinion, people like George Bizos and Dali Mpofu wanted police to die with their guns, i am very happy that the country did not police officers at Marikana, like Beki Cele would put it 'police must not die with their guns'

      clive.wannenburg - 2013-03-27 15:22

      Agreed George just wants this case to run another few years making plenty of cash from those so called innocent miners who attacked the police, What would have happened if they overran and killed the police? we would be in total anarchy right now as every person with a grevence would attack the cop and do as he feels.

      Ernica Stanford - 2013-04-02 19:25

      I also agree. A few days before that a policeman was hacked to death. Now Mr. Bizos says not all of the miners were armed. Has he taken time to view the footage of hundreds of people brandishinging pangas. I could hardly make out one person that was not armed. Did Bizos really expect our Policemen to accept being hacked with pangas and not worry about their safety. I'm no fan of General Phiyega but put Bizos in front of a few hundred enraged panga wielding onslaught and let's see how he fares.

  • CALAMITYSA - 2013-03-27 14:43

    Don't go to a gunfight with a stick. I agree, the police acted in self- defence, otherwise the situation could've been worse. Pity the sangoma has been eliminated. He would clearly have told the court that they were convinced to be invincible due to his muti. The strikers acted illegally. No arguments would ever changed their minds.

  • Rainbow Nation - 2013-03-27 14:46

    And what about the 2 policeman and 2 security Guards that were chopped to death with pangas. If i saw 200 or 300 or even 10 panga weilding mainiacs coming towards me after watching what they did to my friends I would also defend myself. This case is a farce.

  • Daryl Jackson - 2013-03-27 14:49

    The miners KILLED a couple of policemen within a 48hr period..........if strikers turn violent then accept the punishment

  • Reno Finch - 2013-03-27 14:52

    We all saw on the footage miners charging the police at pretty close range. IMHO at that point the police were justified to fire. What happened before in terms of planning / organisation / tactics should get looked at but the bottom line is by the time the police fired, it was self defence.

  • ML Dlams - 2013-03-27 14:57

    Police had weapons wth live rounds wht dd dey expect???????

  • nhlapop - 2013-03-27 14:59

    Shes starting to talk sence now. This commission must come to an end, its been a long time, TALKING ABOUT OUR TAX.

  • obakeng.mmathapelo - 2013-03-27 14:59

    The important thing for me to say is, whether it's two armed people in protest, it bothers us as police That's all u need to say my commissioner, and that's very brilliant and brave of you.

  • Nhlanhla Kambule - 2013-03-27 15:02

    She's damn right self defense it is

  • Teboho Martin - 2013-03-27 15:02

    That's BULL SH*T ! She is not make any sense! Her appointment by Zuma after MR Cele was a Big mistake.

  • Simphiwe Charlie - 2013-03-27 15:03

    Once you start a lie it's very difficult to stop. Please George, get to the point, she's just a pawn, who gave her the order to kill?

  • firstseed.mbeva - 2013-03-27 15:07

    Changing the gear again?

  • Brandon Buckley - 2013-03-27 15:08

    Anyone who feels the police acted wrongfully needs to ask themselves whether they would have done things differently? All those who say yes, would have soiled their trousers, fallen to the ground and cried for mommy to come and help! The miners were wrong in running at the police wielding extremely dangerous weapons! Run at me with a Machete or Axe, and i'm sure as hell going to fill your ass with lead!!!

      Eterni80 - 2013-03-27 15:18

      I've been there, done that, and got the T shirt, and no one died.

      William Ntsoane - 2013-03-27 15:19

      You are a waste of flesh

      marius.fourie.526 - 2013-03-27 15:33

      @Brandon I agree. I don't like this women so I am not supporting her, but what was the alternative for the police? Tell the strikers to sit down and smoke peace pipe?? It is easy to give thumbs down but give a reason why and state what you would have done differently and don't give a solution that will work in a perfect world! What would have work that day?

      Sello Kobe - 2013-03-27 16:00

      @ Brandon I totally agree with you; whoever feels the police were wrong must suggest the alternative action that should have been taken.

  • Katlego Mokone Mothapo - 2013-03-27 15:11

    any human being,under those ciccumstances dat those cops found demselves wud hav acted in da same manner regardless of deir proffesion.some ppl tend 2 hav a stupid belief dat cops r not human beingz.had da copz nt retaliated m quite sure those same people wud hav said 'what a hopeless,incompetent police service we got'.people just dont know what 2 comment on dis dayz.........i suggest dat copz go on a go slow jst 4 only 1 day or stay away nd letz c what wil become of dis country....

  • Sihleni Bayeni - 2013-03-27 15:11

    Were the cops supposed to wait till they get injured before acting in self defence, General I have an answer for the educated Senior Counsel, as a policeman on the street, if you wait for an injury before you defend yourself in SA, the next thing is condolences to your family plus a slow march. any SC, who was supposed to die?

  • Eterni80 - 2013-03-27 15:14

    when they were deployed, they would've been issued with weapons appropriate to the situation - as the situation escalated, a threat assessment should've been done so that steps could've been taken to avoid them having to open fire on the approaching mob. this situation could've/should've been avoided.

      Brandon Buckley - 2013-03-27 15:37

      Point taken Gavin. There are however quite a few questions you need to ask yourself based on you being in the same situation previously? 1. Were they issued with the appropriate weapons? 2. Who was there that was qualified in assessing the volatility? 3. Were these officers trained in handling riot situations? Or were they just thrown into a situation by someone higher up, and defended themselves in the way any person would, believing or should i say, knowing their lives were in danger?

      Jaap van Rensburg - 2013-03-27 15:51

      Gavin Venter magtig maar jy is slim man! Where were you trained to make such clever statements? Were you in a similar situation? If so where?

  • June Matshiya Webrhole - 2013-03-27 15:16

    we dont need ppl lyk riah phiyerha in the saps positions,she doesnt hv wat it takes to be in dat position

  • Gerald Beer - 2013-03-27 15:17

    The lesson for future strikers is simple. Keep it peaceful, the police will not tolerate you rushing at them with any kind of weapon.

      simon.selahla - 2013-03-27 15:53

      This commission instead was supposed to be set to educate people how to demonstrate peacefully to avoid massacres!

  • Charles Phiri - 2013-03-27 15:25

    Phiyega is a disgrace, she cant answer questions straight, her face shows the story not fit to be a commisioner 100% I think she can do better growing cabbages.

  • Dhavandran Palavar - 2013-03-27 15:26

    "I am not qualified and I am not comfortable to give an answer on the proportionality," she said. perfect answer as to why she is national police chief just like the rest of the cANCer ministers in parliment and local government.

  • Khomotso D Maake - 2013-03-27 15:32

    @Katlego Mokone, sorry but i think your wires are crossed. i don't think the situation was threatening to the police. besides, who was under threat at marikana? the community? NO. the mine bosses? I DON'T THINK SO!! it is a universal knowledge an standard rule of engagement that one's life comes first - therefore in an event of a majority-supported strike those opposed to it must stay away too for their safety. And by thw way, the strike did not start that day and the march was long-planned. So i still maintain that no mine bosses' or police's lives were in danger.

      Brian Dorning - 2013-03-27 16:58

      So policemen, standing in formation, with a mob of armed miners running toward them (who had used invincibility-muti) were completely safe? you can't be serious?

  • James Smythe - 2013-03-27 15:33

    Bizos is revealing himself as an idiot here - proportional response my a$$! The cops did shoot in what they believed to be self-defence, but that is not even the point - their duty was to stop the advancing attackers, at least some of whom were shooting at them as they advanced - the bullet impacts in the dust are clearly seen on video, as the police open fire, close to the police line and there is footage of one man shooting a pistol. Proportional response is an irrelevance in this scenario. One needs to ask the question "What were the intentions and objectives of this mob armed with deadly weapons, who had already slaughtered 10 people, should they have actually breached the police lines?" Having said that the SAPS were nonetheless panicked and acted without specific orders to open fire in any disciplined manner, that much is also clear from the videos. Bizos should desist in trying to paint the mob of striking miners as victims here - they are not. They sought war, they got war - the outcome was inevitable given their actions. - 2013-03-27 15:44

      As one lawyer once said: If i see a man with his pants down and a "Hard on" chasing a women, i just assume he wants to rape her.

  • The_Don_@_Nkandla - 2013-03-27 15:33

    I must say that I have some sympathy for the police officers deployed at Marikana on this occasion because of a few considerations: (i) A day or 2 before the 37 protesters were killed, 2 policemen & security guard were killed with pangas. So one can understand the anger & panic when they were stormed by 3000 panga wielding strikers protected by muti; (ii) SAPS are ill-trained and apparently ill-disciplined yet they were put in the forefront of this situation; (iii)they were apparently not properly equipped, radios not working, etc and the command structure was lack lustre & generally lacking; (iii) they are headed by a parrot as Commissioner who just has no fricken clue - she's a deployed ANC cadre & most of them have no clue as we can speak from experience; (iv) as for the Minister, he seems to have been more interested in preparing for his wedding, fighting the DA in WC and generally just being as stupid as he has always been & continues to be while looking just after his own & the president's & cronies' security arrangements. In my opinion, have a heart for those poor officers thrown into the thick of things AND point all the fingers at the SAPS top structure & minister. They are all clueless and must fall on their swords & nothing less.But, Alas!

  • Eric Martinsich - 2013-03-27 15:37

    They acted in Self Defence. Hundreds of people coming at one with all types of weapons i will shoot otherwise they will hatchet like they done to the other two security guards. You play in the fire you will get burned. Look at our soldiers that were killed. They were attacked by thousands with all kinds of weapons and 16 were killed so do not play with criminals.

  • Celeste de Lange - 2013-03-27 15:41

    What does she know? Its always I don't know or I cannot answer or I don't understand the question. And this is the Police Commisioner?

  • Khomotso D Maake - 2013-03-27 15:43

    James Smythe, now you mislead us on the dust issue. the ground was dry and arid. the dust, in the footage that was aired, does not come from the protesters' bullets. Nobody knows in which direction the only protester with a pistol fired unless you were that guy. Your argument is emotionally charged and i begin to suspect that you are a police officer or someone closest to you is.

  • CliveK - 2013-03-27 16:09

    "I am not qualified ...". How right she is, further proof of the utter folly of appointing a non-cop to head SAPS. According to the lunch-time e-news, Phiega said she had "delegated" the task of assessing the Marikana plan of action to someone else. Of course she had to: as a commissioner with no policing experience, what could she possibly contribute to any discussion on the tactics to be employed? This woman should do the honourable thing and tell her minister and the president that she is not up to the task allocated to her, and that she will resign. Perhaps then Mr Pres will look further than an ANC cadre to fill this vitally important post - hopefully there are still a few experienced, honest and competent cops left in SAPS.

  • Llewellyn Arendse - 2013-03-27 16:13

    the miners killed two police men, the police was out to get them back, thats y they use live ammo instead of rubber bullets and thats y no police got hurt. The police was really for the miners and the miners played right in there hands by having pangas and weapons so the police can claim self defence.

  • comrade.matjoi - 2013-03-27 16:17

    We all regret any loss of life, be of a police officer or a civilian! Media must stop misleading the masses with wrong figures and portraying our leaders as ignorant people and not providing adequate leadership given the challenges! Mama Phiyega does not satisfy their intended agenda of focusing on the wrongs done by SAPS and overlook lack of respect from our own brothers who ignored the order to dis-arm,disperse and not crossing the line! I like the way she responds to their questions !

      Cane Corso - 2013-03-27 18:08

      Phiyega is vague. This does her and the SAPS no justice. The fact remains she is not a policewoman. How does she then make legal judgement without proper insight into laws pertaining her position? I'ts not whether she incompetent, rather whether she is competent for the position.

  • nkosikhonorman.ludidi - 2013-03-27 16:20

    why there was no police officer injuried? really? is what you want? you forget easily because two police officer were killed Sunday before and now you want them to wait and get killed? unfare and so stupid to that person who asked that stupid question

      Cane Corso - 2013-03-27 17:16

      seems very few people here actually have a clue as to what the requirements are by law ito what the proportional reactions should be for certain levels of violence. bad training and ultimately bad politics are to blame here. this could have been avoided had the SAPS followed universal crowd control practices in the first place. the commissioner and minister of police are going to pay millions towards the families as a result of their negligence and incompetence.

  • Albert Prinsloo - 2013-03-27 16:48

    How about "We had guns, they had pangas...they charged us, hence why I am saying it was self defence, why did we not suffer casualties or injuries? well our guns reach was a bit more effective than our attackers weapons, I would ask the SC if the police should have risked their own lives by waiting until the miners reached them and started to attack first? And should they have waited to meet them face to face, police would have had a hard time using firearms not putting their fellow policeman in the line of fire. Imagine police trying to protect themselves when it looks like a rugby game between miners and workers!! and then bringing firearms into that equation...sounds like a bad recipe, I am not saying the police was right but that question from the SC was a bit daft in my opinion. And why o why do we always have the most idiotic people in the highest of positions? oh yes its Africa...(I assume it is safe to say by now, or a long time ago that we are no longer South Africa due to our ways of doing things)

  • Cane Corso - 2013-03-27 17:08

    The fact remains that the SAPS did not follow standard crowd control protocol. Where was the water canon, a serious deterrent especially on gravel. Why did the top brass allow use of sharp ammo. The practice is to start with 12 gauge rubber followed by buckshot, then SSG, then AAA. All shot ground up to minimize impact. After all this fails THEN you use maximum force with selective sharps. Senior management failed it's members and the public by not having properly trained personell including itself. This tragedy is a direct result of cronie and comrade placement within the SAPS with individuals with absolutely no training or higher education in policing. We have not seen the last of such tragic events.

  • Tello Moleko - 2013-03-27 18:27

    exactly my words James Smythe,people say water canon should have been used,imagine if that spear and panga can touch your body what would you look like,its always like this if one not faced with tough situation,even Bizos can shoot

  • Thobile Headman Raga - 2013-05-08 18:44

    it's true darling you don't qualify for the whole police commissioner job.

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