The first 90 minutes of the inquiry into Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office as national police commissioner was yesterday spent arguing over whether new witnesses and evidence could be introduced.
Concerns were also raised on whether the parameters of the inquiry, chaired by Judge Cornelis Johannes Claasen, could be expanded.
A request by evidence leaders, led by Advocate Ismail Jamie, to bring in witnesses was met with opposition from Advocate William Mokhari, a representative for the suspended Phiyega. But Claasen ruled in favour of witnesses being called, saying they would be subject to conditions such as relevance and being tested.
This meant new witnesses, and that the scope of this inquiry would not be limited to evidence led at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Judge Ian Farlam.
Claasen ruled that Phiyega’s conduct following the conclusion of the Marikana Commission was relevant.
He said the inquiry was “in the nature” of a disciplinary hearing between employee and employer.
Jamie then said Phiyega had criticised Farlam, calling his report malicious.
According to Jamie, this was an indication that she was not fit to hold office. But Mokhari responded that the terms of reference for the inquiry were set by President Jacob Zuma who, in his opinion, was the only person who could change them.
In August 2012, police killed 34 striking miners at Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana, near Rustenberg.
Phiyega was appointed in June 2012, after former police boss Bheki Cele was axed for improperly awarding R1.7 billion in leasing contracts.
The inquiry bodes ill for Phiyega, excoriated by the Marikana Commission, which recommended the general submit a report to Zuma over her fitness to hold office after the mass killing.
But Marikana Support Campaign spokesperson Rehad Desai expressed worry at Phiyega stymieing proceedings by blocking the Marikana Report, upon which the Claasen Inquiry is founded.