Shift­ing the blame for the Marikana mas­sacre

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE - BY ATHANDIWE SABA

Two years on and the Marikana Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, led by re­tired Judge Ian Far­lam, is nowhere close to plac­ing the blame for the tragedy on any­one’s doorstep.

For t y- f our peo­ple died at t he hands of the po­lice, Lon­min se­cu­rity off icers and strik­ers, but one thing st r uck me dur­ing t he f i rst day of clos­ing ar­gu­ments l ast week: “The un­for­tu­nate truth is that, wit h some hon­ourable ex­cep­tions, many wit­nesses be­fore the com­mis­sion gave false ev­i­dence.”

With t he s e words, f r om t he com­mis­sion’s ev­i­dence leader Adv. Ge­off Budlen­der SC, I re­alised that the truth is that many peo­ple – es­pe­cially the wid­ows and fam­i­lies I vis­ited in 2012 after the mas­sacre – may never re­ceive the clo­sure that they have waited for. They will al­ways know that some cop or striker killed their beloved hus­band or brother or fa­ther, but they will never see the face of the per­son or peo­ple re­spon­si­ble.

For the most part I be­lieve that the top ech­e­lons of our po­lice ser­vice are to blame for the lack of can­dour and hon­esty. It was shock­ing to f ind out that mem­bers of the po­lice ser­vice hid or failed to timeously pro­duce cru­cial ev­i­dence be­fore t he com­mis­sion’s pro­ceed­ings com­menced. The Na­tional Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, Riah Phiyega, led that pack.

She has been vi e wed by most par­ties to have been un­truth­ful in many re­spects, or to have con­ve­niently for­got­ten spe­cific events. A case in point was the ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing which Phiyega con­vened the night be­fore her force gunned down 34 strik­ers on 16 Au­gust 2012.

Ac­cord­ing to ev­i­dence, this was t he meet­ing where t he plan which led to the deaths was drawn up. The min­utes of t his meet­ing were not brought be­fore the com­mis­sion. When this was dis­cov­ered, the hon­ourable Phiyega for­got what was dis­cussed dur­ing that meet­ing.

The po­lice also failed to re­veal, un­til much later, that they had or­dered mor­tu­ary vans and an ad­di­tional 4 000 R5 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion the morn­ing of the blood­shed. They tried to hide cru­cial video footage and painted a pic­ture of ra­bid min­ers high on muti after they had planted weapons on the de­ceased’s bod­ies. Phiyega’s team has em­bar­rassed them­selves, and the ‘ drip, drip’ man­ner i n which t hey pro­duced ev­i­dence is noth­ing short of in­fu­ri­at­ing and crim­i­nal.

Much has been said about Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s “po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence” and his role in in­flu­enc­ing for­mer po­lice min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa and for­mer min­is­ter of min­eral re­sources Susan Shabangu. He asked them to re-char­ac­terise the strike and to act in a more “pointed” man­ner – and the min­is­ters did ex­actly that. But some­how the com­mis­sion is sup­posed to be­lieve that the three played no role in all of this.

Marikana has been one of the most con­vo­luted tragedies in our his­tory, and no one will es­cape blame.

No mat­ter how one ar­gues this, the re­al­ity is that po­lice off icers, strik­ers and se­cu­rit y per­son­nel died at t he hands of strik­ers. One man was in a unique po­si­tion to shed some light

Judge Ian Far­lam

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