NATIONAL police commissioner Riah Phiyega laughed and joked yesterday as grim footage of the killing of 34 miners was screened at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.
Showing scant regard for the families of those gunned down by her officers, Phiyega joked with a state law adviser as a prelude to the killings was screened at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.
Surrounded by her senior officers, Phiyega smiled as she watched one of the four screens.
It was only after screams of horror echoed across the room, as the footage was played without any warning, that Phiyega’s humorous demeanour changed to that of an ice queen, blatantly ignoring wailing family members.
With social workers, trauma counsellors, paramedics and religious leaders rushing to help, Phiyega stared straight ahead, ignoring a widow screaming at her for answers about her husband’s death.
“Why did they do this? Why did your policemen kill my husband? What did he do?” she screamed.
The woman’s husband was among the 34 miners killed at Lonmin mine’s Wonderkop on August 16.
With elderly men openly weeping as they watched footage of their sons dying and paramedics frantically trying to revive several women who had collapsed, Phiyega ignored the pandemonium that played itself out in front of her.
She was, instead, later seen comforting one of the widows of the two policemen murdered along with eight other people in the days before the bloodbath.
Asked repeatedly why, as a mother she had not shown any empathy, tried to comfort the bereaved and what she had been joking about, Phiyega lashed out.
“I am not here for that. I am here for the commission and the commission only,” she snapped.
A visibly irate Bishop Joe Seroka, who helped try to negotiate a truce between the miners and police in the days leading up to the massacre, slammed Phiyega.
“Her behaviour is disgusting. What she did is unbecoming of a person such as her who purports to be a leader of some kind.
“Her actions were disturbing. People were shaken. She sat there laughing and did nothing. You would expect a sense of remorse and empathy, which was non-existent. She should feel ashamed,” Seroka said.
Meanwhile, a series of e-mails released at yesterday’s sitting paints ANC heavyweight and one of South Africa’s wealthiest men, Cyril Ramaphosa, as a cold- hearted businessman.
Released by Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is representing injured miners and more than 200 workers who were arrested, the e-mail correspondence with Lonmin executives portrays Ramaphosa as callous.
In a mail to Albert Jamieson, Lonmin’s chief commercial officer, a day before the August 16 shooting, Ramaphosa wrote: “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such … there needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”
This is in stark contrast to the compassionate image Ramaphosa projected in the aftermath of the massacre.
On October 17, Ramaphosa – a former NUM leader whose name is being bandied about as a possible ANC deputy president candidate – visited the site of the shooting as part of a delegation with President Jacob Zuma.
On October 18, Ramaphosa’s Shanduka company announced he had donated R2-million towards the funeral costs of the miners.
“It is critical that all parties take meaningful steps to ensure that nothing of this nature ever happens again. For this reason, Shanduka Group supports a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances … ,” the company said.
Yesterday, Mpofu told the commission that the e-mails showed a direct “toxic collusion” between Lonmin, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu’s department, the police ministry, state security agencies and Ramaphosa.
“It is clear Ramaphosa was directly involved by advising what was to be done to address these ‘dastardly criminal actions’, which he says must be characterised as such and dealt with effectively,” Mpofu said.
Ramaphosa’s office refused to comment, saying the matter was being dealt with by the commission.