/ 21 November 2013

Marikana: No police assault cases for NPA

Lonmin miners are claiming millions of rand in compensation from the police.
Lonmin miners are claiming millions of rand in compensation from the police. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

A year ago the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) compiled its report into and recommendations about the alleged assault of Lonmin miners in police custody following the Marikana massacre on August 16 and handed it to the police minister, Nathi Mthethwa.

Although the police watchdog body is compelled to refer criminal offences revealed as a result of an investigation to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for criminal prosecution, this never happened in the case of the alleged assault on the miners, the Mail & Guardian has established.

"The executive director must refer criminal offences revealed as a result of an investigation to the National Prosecuting Authority for criminal prosecution, and notify the minister of such referral," the Ipid Act states.

While the cabinet has now controversially nominated Robert Mcbribe as head of the police watchdog body, the directorate has already come under scrutiny over its investigation into the miners’ assault case.

Frank Lesenyego, regional communications manager for the NPA in the North West, said it had not received a report on the alleged assaults on the Lonmin miners.

"The NPA is not investigating any allegations against police," he said this week.

NPA public prosecutor Nigel Carpenter said the directorate had not furnished him with any dockets, despite his request for them to keep him up to date with the investigation.

"Ipid must bring a docket that has been investigated to our office for a decision," he said.

In September last year, Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the directorate had conducted its investigation into allegations of assaults and confirmed it had ­provided Mthethwa with a report containing its recommendations.

This week Dlamini said further allegations had subsequently been reported to the watchdog body.

"After the report was handed to the minister of police, there were more allegations that were reported to the Ipid which needed to be investigated," said Dlamini. "Furthermore, some technical reports are still outstanding before the matters can be referred to the director of public prosecutions for decisions [on] whether to prosecute or not."

Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is leading the legal team acting for the miners, told the M&G he was given "standard answers" when he made inquiries about investigations into the assaults on miners in custody.

"We just … get told that all investigations are proceeding," Mpofu said. "We are also told to await the outcome of the [Farlam] commission. It is nonsense. The miners continue to go to court and back, but [for] anything involving the police, we are told to await the outcome of the commission."

Scope of the commission
Mpofu said he hopes the assault cases will eventually reach court.

Although the M&G was initially informed that the Ipid report was expected to go before the Marikana commission, ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said in March the alleged assaults on the miners fell outside the scope of the commission.

"The decision on the handing over of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s report into the alleged assault of mineworkers was not taken by the minister, but by the commission of inquiry itself, which said they are limiting themselves in terms of investigations to what happened up until the day of the shooting," he said.

Lonmin miners are planning to lodge compensation claims against the police for millions of rands in damages relating to their alleged assault in custody following their arrest on the day of the massacre.

Detailed statements outlining the alleged assaults by police officers have been taken by their legal team.

Severely injured
Some miners were allegedly hospitalised once they were moved to prison as they were severely injured.

The M&G reported last year that North West police commissioner Lieutenant General William Mpembe had been accused of being present when some Lonmin miners were assaulted in custody.

Mpembe was one of 10 police officers asked by the Ipid to attend an identity parade in connection with the assaults. His attorney, Carel Taute, has denied that Mpembe was present at the time of the assaults.

A few police officers were arrested by the directorate after the identity parade, which took place in September last year. Taute said Mpembe was planning to claim R1-million in damages from Mthethwa because he was arrested without a warrant.

Former watchdog boss now an MP

Francois Beukman, the former head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), whose resignation was announced on the afternoon of the Marikana massacre on August 16 last year, has been appointed an ANC member of Parliament.

Beukman is now a member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on economic development, a post he took up in September.

A former New National Party member until its merger with the ANC, Beukman served for 10 years as an MP. He confirmed his appointment this week but declined to comment on the ­reasons for his resignation.

On the afternoon that police opened fire on protesting miners and 34 people died, the directorate issued a statement to say that Beukman had tendered his resignation "to pursue other interests". His contract was due to end in August 2014.

At the time of his resignation, Beukman was being investigated for alleged irregularities in the appointment of the director for executive support in his office. He allegedly handed in the CV of Ilse Pretorius after the closing date for applications.

Humphrey Ramafoko, head of communications for the Public Service Commission, confirmed that the commission received complaints related to alleged irregularities in the directorate, including Pretorius's appointment.

"The minister appointed task teams to look into the matter. Subsequent to the outcome of the investigations conducted by the task teams, the Public Service Commission was informed that Mr Beukman was no longer in the employ of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate," he said at the time.

Pretorius has also subsequently left the directorate. Beukman, an attorney, continued to work in his private legal practice in Somerset West, near Cape Town, over the past year.