‘Phiyega an unreliable witness’

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has evaded answering key questions before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

This was the submission made by Legal Resources Centre lawyer George Bizos SC at the conclusion of his cross-examination of Phiyega.

Bizos, who represents some of the victims of the police shootings that led to the deaths of 34 people in Marikana on August 16, said Phiyega had failed to take the commission into her confidence and seemed to have taken a stance to absolve the police of any wrongdoing.

Bizos, who commenced his cross-examination last week, has argued that Phiyega had jumped the gun by heaping praise on the police shortly after the shooting despite not having all the facts before her.

Phiyega, on August 17 and 20, made statements to the effect that police action on August 16 represented the “best of responsible policing”.

Bizos argued that a statement by a police officer who said he had seen a colleague shoot an injured protester in cold blood was in conflict with Phiyega’s assertion that the police had acted responsibly.

Bizos also came close to accusing Phiyega of causing one of the family members of the slain miners to break down recently.

At the conclusion of reading her opening statement a fortnight ago, Phiyega expressed sympathy with the families of all who had died. This caused one of the family members to break down, forcing a break in proceedings.

Bizos said expressing sympathy without acknowledging wrongdoing could cause such reactions, in reference to the incident.

His earlier statements about Phiyega being an unreliable witness prompted fierce protests from SA Police Service lawyer Ishmael Semenya SC.

Commission chairperson retired judge Ian Farlam intervened, asking Phiyega if she wished to respond.

She said she had answered the questions to the best of her ability and was willing to help the commission to find the truth.

Bizos has, throughout his cross-examination, sought to force Phiyega to accept responsibility for the events of August 16.

But Phiyega has repeatedly stuck to her guns, saying she accepted responsibility for the operation, that there was no plan to kill people and that the police had a plan which was disrupted, resulting in the deaths of 34 people.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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