Seoka lays into police at Farlam inquiry

Johannes Seoka (right). (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Johannes Seoka (right). (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Bishop Johannes Seoka refused to retract his 'strident' remarks about the SAPS as he faced cross-examination at the Farlam commission of inquiry.

Seoka was a mediator in the wage talks that eventually ended the six-week-long strike involving Lonmin workers.

The bishop, who last week said his years in the church had taught him that the police in South Africa could not be trusted, would only concede that there were some policemen in his church who were lay preachers and therefore there were some policemen he could trust.

He also said that during a visit to the Marikana Police Station he had encountered a minor who had been handcuffed because the police claimed he would otherwise run away. Under cross-examination by the SAPS's legal counsel, Seoka said: "Now surely the police can do better than that."

Seoka also faced tough questioning from Lonmin legal counsel Schalk Burger, who tried to paint Seoka as an unreliable witness who did not remember exactly what Lonmin management had said to him about the workers.

Burger pointed out that Seoka did not remember certain details about his trip to Lonmin since August 16 – when the massacre took place – and subsequent to that.

Seoka had earlier testified that Lonmin management had called the workers criminals and murderers.

External affairs
Burger said Lonmin management, namely Barnard Mokwena, executive vice-president of human capital and external affairs, Abey Kgotle, Lonmin's executive manager of external affairs, and Jomo Kwadi, employee relations senior manager, would deny this.

Seoka's impartiality also came under attack. Burger noted that in a statement he released on November 12, Seoka had condemned the killing of miners by the police and the "planting of weapons", but was silent on the murders of two police officers and two security guards that had taken place in the week leading up to August 16.

Burger also put it to Seoka that his role as a peacemaker was compromised by a lack of background knowledge after he claimed that he was not aware that the Lonmin strike was unprotected. Seoka refuted this, saying that August 16 may have been avoided had he been allowed to act.

It is not the first time that Seoka has appeared before retired Judge Ian Farlam. A report by a four-member task team that was set up by Anglican Church Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to investigate discord in the diocese of Pretoria and included Farlam, paints Seoka as an authoritarian figure who repeatedly flouted the canons of the Anglican Church with regards to the disciplining of staff and the use of cathedral funds.

The task team, which delivered its report in September, was set up to quell 18 months of discord between the Anglican cathedral parish of St Albans, diocesan structures and the bishop.

The decision by the synod of bishops to appoint a task team to look into the root causes of the discord was taken after Seoka's decision on May 17 to close the cathedral and suspend all forms of worship with immediate effect.

The decision to close the cathedral was followed by an urgent high court application on behalf of the cathedral parish and the church council to set aside the closure.

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