Phiyega ‘un­fit for of­fice’


CityPress - - Front Page - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­

Sus­pended Na­tional Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Riah Phiyega is not fit to hold of­fice and should be dis­missed, the board of in­quiry into her fit­ness to hold of­fice has found. Phiyega will now be­come the third suc­ces­sive na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner to leave un­der a cloud, and the first po­lice of­fi­cer to be held to ac­count for the 2012 Marikana mas­sacre, in which 34 mine work­ers at Lon­min’s plat­inum mine were killed while protest­ing for higher wages.

Her pre­de­ces­sor, Bheki Cele, was fired by Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma in mid-2012 af­ter the Moloi Board of In­quiry found gross mis­con­duct on his part when deal­ing with a prop­erty lease for po­lice head­quar­ters.

The ca­reer of Cele’s pre­de­ces­sor, Jackie Selebi, also ended in dis­grace in 2009, when he was dis­cov­ered to be in a cor­rupt re­la­tion­ship with con­victed drug lord Glenn Agliotti – a crime for which he was con­victed af­ter he left the po­lice ser­vice.

Now Phiyega also faces the prospect of be­ing booted out, per­pet­u­at­ing the state of tur­bu­lence in po­lice lead­er­ship.

Three sources with knowl­edge of the find­ings told City Press this week that the board of in­quiry, headed by Judge Cor­nelis Claassen, also found that Phiyega lied to the Marikana Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, headed by re­tired Judge Ian Far­lam. Phiyega is chal­leng­ing the find­ings of the com­mis­sion.

It found that she failed to dis­close that there were two crime scenes at which the 34 mine work­ers were gunned down in Au­gust 2012 – Scene 1, at which some of the mine work­ers were killed; and the in­fa­mous Scene 2, where po­lice pur­sued and shot flee­ing mine work­ers, many of whom were killed while hid­ing be­hind rocks.

The find­ings have not been com­mu­ni­cated to Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma be­cause the pres­i­dency is yet to pro­vide a date on which the board can brief him about its find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions. The in­quiry con­cluded on June 3 and the re­port was fi­nalised on Novem­ber 13.

City Press has also learnt that Phiyega only be­came aware of the find­ings “in­for­mally” – and she is al­ready plan­ning to have the re­port re­viewed in court.

Two sources sym­pa­thetic to Phiyega, as well as one close to the Claassen in­quiry, con­firmed she was found un­fit to hold of­fice.

“Phiyega’s fu­ture as the com­mis­sioner has been cut short,” said one.

“She is also aware that she will not re­turn to the po­lice ser­vice again. But she is con­sid­er­ing chal­leng­ing the ver­dict and will only do so when she gets a re­port.”

Said an­other: “She is not go­ing to go with­out a fight. She does not want a golden hand­shake; she wants to clear her name.”

City Press has learnt from two se­nior se­cu­rity clus­ter sources that the hunt for the next na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner was al­ready un­der way this week.

“The plan is that, when the pres­i­dent an­nounces the find­ings, he will also ap­point a per­ma­nent po­lice com­mis­sioner,” said one highly placed po­lice of­fi­cial.

Af­ter learn­ing of the in­quiry’s find­ings, Phiyega wrote to the board’s sec­re­tary, Ad­vo­cate Liza Tsatsi, ask­ing that the board com­ply with the SA Po­lice Ser­vice Act, which stip­u­lates that at the con­clu­sion of an in­quiry, the board must sub­mit its re­port to the pres­i­dent, the na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner, the com­mis­sioner con­cerned and the rel­e­vant par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee.

“In light of the above, kindly fur­nish us with the copy of the re­port,” Phiyega wrote.

City Press learnt that Tsatsi did not re­spond for­mally to the let­ter, but in­formed Phiyega that it would be un­fair for her to re­ceive the re­port while “other par­ties in­volved” had not yet re­ceived it.

A board in­sider told City Press this week that Phiyega’s case at the in­quiry was badly dam­aged by her re­fusal to sub­mit to cross-ex­am­i­na­tion.

The case against her was also sig­nif­i­cantly strength­ened by Claassen’s rul­ing that wit­nesses, who had not tes­ti­fied at the Marikana Com­mis­sion be­fore Judge Far­lam, could be called to give ev­i­dence.

The most damn­ing tes­ti­mony, a board in­sider said, came from for­mer po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Lin­dela Mashigo, who told the in­quiry that Phiyega in­structed him to present the mas­sacre as one in­ci­dent and not two, and also to say that the po­lice had acted in self-defence.

“Mashigo’s tes­ti­mony was very di­rect, be­cause it was first hand. He was di­rectly im­pli­cat­ing Phiyega in wrong­do­ing,” the in­sider said. “And she failed to dis­pute that. She made it dif­fi­cult for the judge to be­lieve her be­cause she re­fused to take the stand.”

Mashigo told the Claassen in­quiry that he made changes to the po­lice’s me­dia state­ment, is­sued af­ter the mas­sacre, be­cause Phiyega had told him to.

“The changes came about through dic­ta­tion by the na­tional com­mis­sioner. The main changes were on the state­ment,” Mashigo tes­ti­fied.

Mashigo said Phiyega told him that, at a me­dia brief­ing the day af­ter the mas­sacre, they should re­lay the Marikana shoot­ings not as two scenes, but rather, as a sin­gle oc­cur­rence.

The changes, he tes­ti­fied, in­cluded “not dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing be­tween the two scenes” and “the ‘sys­tem­atic with­drawal’ of the po­lice. That, too, was dic­tated to me by the na­tional com­mis­sioner.”

In the state­ment, po­lice said that they “re­treated sys­tem­at­i­cally and were forced to utilise max­i­mum force to de­fend them­selves”.

“That is a line that was dic­tated to me by the na­tional com­mis­sioner when we were com­pil­ing that me­dia state­ment,” Mashigo tes­ti­fied.

The board in­sider told City Press that clos­ing ar­gu­ments by ev­i­dence leader Ad­vo­cate Is­mail Jamie SC were also “very strong and con­vinced the judge and his as­sis­tants”.

Zuma had asked the Claassen Board of In­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate whether Phiyega mis­led the Marikana Com­mis­sion by hid­ing a de­ci­sion to im­ple­ment a “tac­ti­cal op­tion”, taken at the na­tional man­age­ment fo­rum meet­ing of se­nior po­lice the day be­fore the mas­sacre.

He also asked it to in­ves­ti­gate whether a cat­a­strophic re­sult should have been fore­seen, and whether Phiyega’s speech to po­lice of­fi­cers the day af­ter could have been con­strued as per­mis­sion to frus­trate the Marikana Com­mis­sion’s work.

The board was also to in­ves­ti­gate whether Phiyega lied about Scene 2, and about the po­lice hav­ing acted in self-defence.

Jamie told the board of in­quiry that any­one with a “slight” un­der­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion at Marikana at the time would have fore­seen that the tac­ti­cal op­tion would lead to dis­as­ter.

He said Phiyega was ei­ther in­com­pe­tent or grossly neg­li­gent, and if she an­tic­i­pated that mine work­ers would die, she could be guilty of mur­der or cul­pa­ble homi­cide.

Jamie said Phiyega’s state­ment to po­lice of­fi­cers af­ter the mas­sacre, in which she said Marikana “rep­re­sents the best pos­si­ble polic­ing”, was “breath­tak­ingly in­ac­cu­rate”.

“It was a dis­as­ter, for which the cap­tain of the ship must take re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Jamie told the com­mis­sion.

He also slammed Phiyega for stay­ing silent, af­ter what she had claimed was a “witch-hunt” against her.

“This was a spe­cific in­quiry fo­cussing on the con­duct of the na­tional com­mis­sioner, pre­cisely to get to the bot­tom of this sort of thing … and she chose not to tes­tify. And we say, that says it all,” he said.

This week, po­lice watch­dog body the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate (Ipid) con­firmed it had listed Phiyega as a per­son of in­ter­est in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mas­sacre. “It does not mean that when she leaves the po­lice ser­vice, we will not go af­ter her,” said a se­nior of­fi­cial. “We will still charge her if the need arises.” In Fe­bru­ary, Ipid told Par­lia­ment it would rec­om­mend charges of de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice against se­nior mem­bers, in­clud­ing Phiyega, but no po­lice of­fi­cers had faced any for­mal charges re­sult­ing from the mas­sacre.

At the time, Ipid told Par­lia­ment it still did not have enough ev­i­dence to bring for­mal charges against any of­fi­cers.

SLAMMED Sus­pended Na­tional Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Riah Phiyega

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