Marikana police 'planned for bloodshed' – analyst

Cape Town - An Institute for Security Studies (ISS) political analyst says the Farlam Commission’s report on the Marikana massacre shows police ignored their legal responsibility to avoid violence at all costs and "planned for bloodshed".

Speaking to News24 on Friday, Gareth Newham, ISS Africa head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Division, said the Marikana report released by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday indicates the police were negligent in their responsibility to err on the side of safety.

“The responsibility of a police commander when facing a high risk situation is to avoid the loss of life or bloodshed. That is the legal responsibility they have, by law,” he said.

“The Commission found senior management to the police commissioner were warned of bloodshed, foresaw there was likely to be bloodshed, but reconciled themselves of that.

“In other words, they deliberately thought, ‘we don’t care, we’re more than happy to risk bloodshed'."

“That’s evidenced by the police ordering 4 000 rounds of powerful automatic ammunition and four mortuary vans that can carry 12 bodies.

“That is one of the key reasons why they need to be held accountable. They acted with complete disregard to the protocol and the law.”

Cabinet’s involvement ‘mysterious’

Newham also said the report begged questions over the roles that National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and then Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa played in the incident.

“We would have liked to have seen a lot more details about politicians who were party to this event; what they knew, what they said and when, with particular reference to Mthethwa,” he continued.

“We did see there were attempts by [Phiyega] to cover up his involvement, which she admitted in her second affidavit, and she was very evasive about what he had said to her and her to him.

“That is something that could have been delved into far more. The commission doesn’t actually exonerate Mthethwa; it just comes to no finding; there wasn’t enough evidence one way or another.

“There’s still a lot of mystery around that.”

What’s next for the police?

Phiyega's admissions in her second affidavit have left the South African Police Service in a leadership quandary.

Newham said there were still more phases to follow in determining if Phiyega was fit to hold office, specifically setting up a board of inquiry, but stressed the process had to be handled with urgency and authority. According to the law, a board of inquiry had to be immediately set up.

“But it’s very hard evidence [against her], she’s unlikely to be cleared,” he said.

However, Newham said the president should not appoint the next police commissioner "in a secret way where some unknown individual with no police experience is thrust into the position".

"That must be avoided at all costs. Cabinet’s own National Development Plan says a transparent, competitive process be undertaken by an independent board," he said.

Newham cited other precedents in Africa where this had taken place, including the recent appointment of Kenya’s current police commissioner.

“The process of appointing a person in authority, the credentials need to be known and it needs to be transparent,” he added.

Mixed reaction to report

Meanwhile, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) welcomed the release of the report.

“We are pleased the president has taken the time to reflect on the findings and recommendations of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry and provided a formal response to the nation,” the SAHRC said in a statement on Friday.

“The release was a long-awaited one. The right of individuals to access justice and the right to just administration are two clear rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights.”

The body said it would be studying the 646-page document in detail before releasing an official statement on the findings.

"Lowest point in our democracy"

However, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane was more critical.

The 35-year-old said the report ultimately failed to assign political responsibility for the massacre and denied the victims' families “the justice they deserve”.

“Marikana represents the lowest point in the history of our democracy and a test of the political will of the [African National Congress] to uphold the principles of justice and equality before the law on which it is based. Without accountability, our democratic endeavour will not succeed,” he said on Friday.

“The DA believes... both Mthethwa and Phiyega should be summarily dismissed and investigated for their criminal liability in the massacre.”