Zuma wouldn't fire Mthethwa over Marikana 'mistake'

Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma would not fire Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for the Marikana shooting because he viewed it as a mistake, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.

"At a spur of the moment, a mistake happened," Zuma was quoted as saying in a Guardian article in December.

"Now, if such a mistake happened, you throw a minister away? I don't know on what basis, because there are facts that need to be weighed," he reportedly said.

The article was entered into evidence before the commission, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people during unrest at Lonmin's platinum mine last year.

Police shot dead 34 miners on August 16. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Dali Mpofu, for the miners wounded and arrested on August 16, said Zuma could not fire Mthethwa as the minister could not involve himself in operational matters.

Commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, questioned whether this was correct.

Mpofu, who was cross-examining national police commissioner Riah Phiyega, referred her to the two affidavits she submitted to the commission.

Error in the second statement
In the first one, she stated: "On the afternoon of August 16, 2012, I received a call from [North West police commissioner] Lieutenant General [Zukiswa] Mbombo, who informed me of the decision to implement a dispersal operation of the plan.

"In the second, corrected, and signed affidavit, she stated: "On the afternoon of August 16 2012, I received a call from Lieutenant General Mbombo, who informed me of the decision to implement stage three of the plan, which information I relayed to the minister."

Phiyega told the commission she had made an error in the second statement, which she had drafted.

She said Mthethwa had simply asked her what had been done to deal with the situation in Marikana, and that had not given her advice as this was not part of his job description. 

Mpofu submitted that Phiyega had changed her statement as she did not want to implicate Mthethwa in the operation.

"Your statements are aimed at deliberately removing the minister, as this would show that he interfered and he aware of ... the plan," Mpofu put it to her.

He also charged that she had tried to protect her subordinates, because she had given the plan "her blessings".

Sacrificial lamb for the police
"This is an acrobatic act, which would result in you crashing," said Mpofu.

Phiyega replied that she stood by the statement she made under oath.

"The criticism is invalid," she said.

She asked Mpofu why she would make herself a sacrificial lamb for the police.
She maintained that since taking the position of national police commissioner on June 12 last year, she had not taken any instruction from Mthethwa.

Earlier, she told the commission there had been no political interference in the police's operation in Marikana.

Farlam extended the commission's proceedings on Thursday so Mpofu could conclude cross-examining Phiyega. – Sapa

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