There are less than 30 days to go before the Claassen Board of Inquiry begins its investigation on May 3.
It is to probe suspended national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega’s actions during the Marikana massacre.
During an extended strike in the platinum sector in the North West, striking miners clashed with police. This resulted in 34 miners being killed and 78 injured after being gunned down on August 16, 2012.
The Marikana Commission under Judge Ian Farlam, appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the massacre, found that Phiyega carried much of the blame for operational blunders that led to South Africa’s biggest mass killing since Sharpeville.
Phiyega was suspended by Zuma on October 14 “pending any decision that is made following upon the recommendations of the board of inquiry into allegations of misconduct, her fitness to hold office and her capacity to execute official duties efficiently”.
Zuma appointed Judge Neels Claassen to chair the board of inquiry. It is to investigate whether the “national commissioner, acting together with other leadership of the SA Police Service or alone, misled the commission by concealing that it had made the decision to implement a ‘tactical option’, taken at the national management forum meeting on or about August 15 2012”.
Phiyega has welcomed the board of inquiry.
“It is a process I am preparing for and one that I hope will assist me in clearing my name and help the nation with the answers it continues to seek about the tragic events in Marikana,” Phiyega said in a statement.
She was appointed to her position by Zuma, despite fierce opposition, and hopes to avoid further ignominy. Claassen served as a judge for 20 years and retired in August 2014.
According to his CV, Claassen serves on the Ministerial Task Team, appointed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, to “investigate, advise and draft a declaration on the crisis in the escalation of medical malpractice and legal court claims”.
He is also director of the Field Band Foundation, which elevates youth in townships nationally through music and dance instructions.
Claassen shot to media prominence when he found there had been widespread manipulation of news under the SABC’s former head of news, Snuki Zikalala, and that Zikalala had “dishonestly tried to cover up this manipulation”.