Suspended national police commissioner Riah Phiyega will head the list of 72 police officers identified for prosecution for their role in the killing of 34 striking mine workers in Marikana, almost five years after the massacre that shocked the world happened. This was revealed in a presentation by the police’s watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), to Parliament this week after it combed through evidence in a complex investigation that covered several crime scenes where police shot the workers, including one death that took place at Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital. The investigation encompassed the crime scenes where 10 other people, including two police officers, were killed in the week preceding the massacre in August 2012.
The identified officers also include former North West commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo, Brigadier Ledile Malahlela, and North West deputy police commissioners Major General Ganasen Naidoo and Major General William Mpembe. Their charges will range from murder, assault and defeating the ends of justice to perjury.
In its presentation, Ipid revealed that the investigations were at an advanced stage and it undertook to submit the dockets to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by April 24. But the watchdog conceded that it had not yet obtained all relevant statements, nor had it yet verified some of the video footage obtained during the investigation.
“Sixty-four warning statements are outstanding out of the 184 crime scene reconstructions,” said the report.
The warning statement is a final stage in an investigation, which will be issued to suspects, and they will be afforded an opportunity to state their side of the story, paving the way for the NPA to make a decision on whether to prosecute on an individual basis or not.
According to the presentation, “all relevant statements pertaining to” Phiyega’s and Mbombo’s roles in misleading the Farlam commission of inquiry were submitted to the NPA, and Ipid was waiting for further prosecutorial guidance.
Another docket implicating Naidoo in the shooting of mine workers has also been submitted to the NPA. It refers to Naidoo failing to inform Ipid that he had also fired shots at the scene, and that he had refused to submit his firearm for ballistics testing. The prosecution is yet to announce its decision on the matter.
In the investigation regarding the murder of the two police officers, and attempted murder of another police officer and five mine workers, investigators submitted that they were due to obtain 10 statements and certify the video footage. They planned to submit the docket to the NPA for a decision on March 28.
During the investigation, Ipid said it had discovered that some police officers had concealed information surrounding the death of another mine worker in a police vehicle by claiming he had died in hospital.
This case, according to the Ipid report, was not revealed during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Police claimed the deceased was counted as one of those who died at Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital. In this case, Mpembe and three other officers were cited as suspects. Ipid also stated that it had evidence to prove that the worker died in the police vehicle at the detention centre. It is unclear how the worker ended up at Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital, but the investigation has been completed and forwarded to the NPA for a decision.
The Ipid report also revealed that all was not well with its investigations. It said the directorate could not conclude some of the investigations by reconstructing the events – especially at the second crime scene, which is known as Small Koppie – due to budgetary constraints. This was the scene where several mine workers were shot and killed while trying to run away from officers, who fired shots indiscriminately.
In an interview with City Press last week, acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane said much had been done to implement recommendations from the Farlam inquiry into the massacre. He said Police Minister Nathi Nhleko appointed a panel of experts and senior officers to look into issues emanating from the commission.
“The panel is primarily looking at how the public order police, as well as crowd management control, could be reviewed. This is an attempt to prevent a reoccurrence of the massacre. Among other things, it is looking at the kind of equipment that is used by officers,” he said.
Phahlane said a dedicated unit had been set up to deal with issues related to crowd management. He said they had revised the basic police training programme to introduce a dedicated session to focus on crowd management that would last for three weeks, instead of the three-day course that was presented in the past.
“When the new recruits leave the college, they will be equipped to deal with crowds.”