A PENSIVE and sometimes flustered national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, revealed how hours before the massacre of 34 Marikana miners, a decision was taken to implement “stage three” of a plan to disperse nearly 3000 strikers should a last-minute peace deal fail.
Phiyega testified yesterday at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam.
Calling the actions, which “culminated in the catastrophic and unprecedented loss of life” regrettable, she recalled the days and moments leading up to the shooting.
Phiyega said on the day of the killings, she was contacted by the North West provincial police commissioner to say there was a potential deal “but officers were preparing for stage three of the plan to disperse the miners”.
“I was phoned later to say there had been a terrible tragedy … that miners were killed and hundreds arrested. I immediately went to the scene,” she said.
Phiyega denied news reports that she laughed during the opening sequences of national TV footage of the killings at the commission last year. “I would never do such a thing. I, along with the 200000 members under me, am here to serve all of South Africa and its citizens.”
However, advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the families of the dead, injured and arrested miners, slammed police and their apparent masking of recent arrests, detention and torture of people set to appear before the commission.
“Police say no-one was arrested after November, but I have reports of people arrested in January, right at the beginning, with some only appearing for the first time at the end of January. What the police are saying here is far from the truth,” he said.
Farlam ordered that the complaints be reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. “I will not have attempts made to disrupt or interfere with these proceedings … or allow people to be dissuaded from taking part,” he said.
Yesterday, Phiyega, who throughout the day tried to absolve herself and her officers of wrongdoing, continued her testimony, offering her “sincere apologies”, which drew cries of anguish from widows.
Phiyega earlier in the day testified on police policies governing public order policing, training, the use of force, human rights and law and order.