By Jeff Wicks
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega has broken her silence on the findings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of 34 striking miners at Marikana, saying on Sunday night she strongly disagreed with some of them.
“I fully acknowledge the recommendations made by the Commission and will respond to the President as directed. We have picked up some of the areas where we strongly disagree with the content of the report, such as the insinuation that management went to work that day with murderous intent. But this is a discussion for another day,” she said.
“Our protest situation is marred by widespread violence, intimidation and a high degree of intolerance of those with opposing views. By way of example, I have just received a letter from the transport industry, which is preparing for a strike next month. They are concerned about the violence which often accompanies strikes and the possibility that they may experience the same.
“They are concerned that non-striking workers may be intimidated, attacked and assaulted and that property belonging to both non-strikers and their businesses may be damaged or stolen. They are also concerned that their executives may be attacked, as these things have happened in the past.”
“Although the Commission has extensively touched on public violence, condemnation from commentators is not as loud as it should be. In the few instances during which public violence was mentioned and sometimes condemned, it was portrayed as acts committed by a few rogue elements. This even when 10 people had lost their lives before the tragic events of that fateful day,” she said.
“As the SAPS, we believe that our society and especially those in prominent positions, must continuously drive home the fact that violence in whatever form must never characterise a strike. The carrying of dangerous weapons must be condemned. And those strikers who carry these weapons during strikes must be exposed and brought to account. Strikers must always bear in mind that their non-striking colleagues have rights too and should not be harassed or assaulted should they decide not to take part in the strike,” Phiyega added.
She laid out a detailed progress report on the improvements that had been made and will still be made to the Public Order Policing Unit, including a swelling of ranks and broader scope of training.
“We have requested a R3.3bn capital boost over a four-year period which provides for the re-opening of dormant Public Order Policing units and starting new ones across the country. This will increase the number of units from 28 to 54, nearly doubling personnel to 8 000. The biggest benefit of enhanced units will be improved response time, particularly to spontaneous incidents and better service.”
“The Marikana heartbreak will remain with us forever as a painful memory of something all of us, the police and everyone involved in public protests, would never want to see again. It is up to all of us to ensure that it never happens again. It would be a huge mistake just to leave it to the police alone to find solutions to societal problems.
“At a personal level, I am particularly saddened by the loss of life, the 10 people who died before the events of August 16 and the 34 who were killed on the day. There was very little focus by the Commission and the commentators, unfortunately, on the 10 deaths. Seeing the families of the police officers and security guards killed amongst the 10 has caused further scars and I am sure that somehow they will find justice,” she said.