“There has been positive intervention by police where at least over 80 percent of a total of 151 gatherings and protests were dealt with successfully and peacefully in the past 18 months,” national police commissioner Riah Phiyega told the commission.
She was under cross-examination by Dali Mpofu, for the wounded and arrested miners.
The commission, sitting on its 100th day in Rustenburg, is chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam.
It is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during wage-related unrest near Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana last year. On August 16, police shot dead 34 miners. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and security guards, were killed.
Mpofu questioned Phiyega about the perceived use of maximum force by police towards the miners last year.
He said the police action was not according to guidelines and prescripts regarding the use of minimum force.
Phiyega said: “I do not agree with you because of various reasons. To start with, the situation at Marikana was an illegal gathering… the Constitution gives everyone the right to gather, but to gather peacefully and unarmed.”
Mpofu said it was clear the police at Marikana broke the law.
“If one of the police commanders would come here before the commission and say ‘yes, we used maximum force on the day’… that would amount to a confession, as the prescripts outlaw maximum force. It has no place in South Africa. Is that correct?” he asked Phiyega.
Ishmael Semenya, for the police, objected and said there was no basis for Mpofu’s statement that another police commander would agree that maximum force was used.
Phiyega said the Marikana situation was “unprecedented”. – Sapa