As more conflicting and questionable police data streams into the public consciousness courtesy of the Farlam Commission, the picture of a horrible crime becomes ever-more complete. And what’s even more disturbing, an organisation-wide cover-up becomes increasingly obvious.
The Farlam Commission continues to be the vehicle for revealing the most shocking information about what happened at the place called Small Koppie on 16 August.
On Monday, Captain Jeremiah Apollo Mohlaki, crime scene investigator, was presented with two sets of images taken at the scene. The first set was taken while there was still daylight and showed the dead miners, few of whom had weapons near them. The commission then presented corresponding images of the same miners with traditional and hand-made weapons close by, even on top of the dead strikers.
One really does not need Mohlaki’s own admission – and that of the police counsel Ishmael Semenya – to understand that the police had doctored the crime. The police at the scene were trying to make their claim of self-defence plausible. One understands this behaviour, inasmuch as any perpetrator will lie about their crimes.
Yet here we have an expert whose job is to gather evidence for prosecution apparently going along with this subversion of justice. Why?
It is clear from the records of the day that senior officers, including Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, were at Marikana through most the day of the 16th. It is inconceivable that these same officers – from the generals down – were not at the site of Small Koppie before the sun has set on that bloodiest of days. They must have seen the Scene 2, or had other high-ranking brother officers report to them on it, before the tampering.
During the nine-day bosberaad or indaba held in Potchefstroom to plan the police submission to the commission, these same high ranking officers would have watched the before-and-after footage. They would have been aware of how the scene looked before those dangerous weapons were so evocatively placed – if not first hand, then from both the police stills and the video footage. There would have been frank discussions about what happened that day.
Did these top cops then say, “Hey okes, bafana, magents, this is wrong, you are subverting the justice we are sworn to uphold?”
It appears that the nine days were spent, at the taxpayers’ cost, planning a strategy to extricate the police from culpability for what they had done at Marikana. It might have been here that they decided to try to intimidate witnesses by arresting and torturing them. If not, then why have the revelations of this brutality not seen any of the officers who tortured the miners arrested for assault?
The commission heard from the police that Phiyega became aware that the crime scene might have been tampered with two weeks ago and had launched an investigation. Two weeks and five days ago Riah Phiyega was laughing and joking during the hearings as footage of police killing miners was shown.
So when we hear the phrase “two weeks” out of the police counsel’s mouth, is that perhaps a little over two weeks? What does a newly appointed civilian with a business reputation have to gain by abetting police crimes and cover-ups? Who is she beholden to – the police or the country?
And then there is the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the cops who are there to monitor the cops, the people who protect us from the rotten apples. They were called, apparently, to Marikana that same day. When exactly did they arrive on the scene? Their investigation included taking statements from wounded and arrested miners who were eyewitnesses to what happened, as well as from the policemen whose weapons fired the bullets that killed those men. IPID has access to all the evidence – including those before and after images at Small Koppie. They must have been aware – for months – of how police were trying to cover up the crime scene.
Why were those police officers not suspended while the investigations continued? Why have the superiors in charge not been suspended?
As far as we are aware, there is no reason for justice to be put on hold while the commission is in progress. Indeed, the police and National Prosecuting Authority have most definitely not been sitting on their hands, if the wave of arrests and court appearances of miners is anything to go by. In fact, some of those hands have been pretty busy, beating miners in custody.
Yet IPID did nothing. (Or at least nothing we as Joe Public can see.) What we see is that police are a law unto themselves. That they – and their political bosses – are above any rules and regulations; they are above South Africa’s Constitution.
The message is crystal clear: our government will back the boys and girls in blue above any constitutional rights of our citizens. The police will quell any popular movement by the underclass that threatens the interests of the political, labour or business elite.
The police are acting with impunity. Their political masters are acting with impunity.
In the South Africa of 2012, if you are poor and without political clout, you are on your own. DM
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Born in South Africa in 1962, Greg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative photojournalist and is co-author of The Bang Bang Club, a nonfiction book on South Africa’s transition to democracy, and Murder at Small Koppie based on his investigations into the Marikana massacre of miners by police. He is an associate editor for Daily Maverick. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2013/14 and teaches photojournalism and visual journalism at Boston University’s Journalism school, where he also indulges a passion by leading analogue workshops on archaic film cameras.
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