Former SA Police Service media relations practitioner Brigadier Lindela Mashigo may prove to be the last witness for evidence leaders after his damning testimony at the Claassen board of inquiry into suspended national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office. They may feel their work to discredit Phiyega is done.
Mashigo yesterday dropped a bombshell at the inquiry, taking place in Tshwane, Gauteng, when he denied taking part in preparing an internal briefing document, in contradiction of an earlier statement by Phiyega to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
That commission, under retired Judge Ian Farlam, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma following the deaths of 34 striking miners shot down police during a violent strike at Lonmin in 2012. It recommended that an inquiry into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office be held, which is now being chaired by Judge Neels Claassen.
Phiyega had stated that Mashigo and Captain Dennis Adriao were responsible for both the internal document and the media statement released in August 2012, which were materially different from each other.
Mashigo said he had only effected “certain changes” to the media statement – after receiving it from Adriao – which were dictated by Phiyega.
Under questioning by evidence leader Ismail Jamie SC, Mashigo said Phiyega dictated he should not include the fact that there were two different scenes where striking miners had been shot and killed.
“The changes came about through dictation by the national commissioner. The main changes were on the [media] statement,” said Mashigo.
He said the information in the internal briefing document – which differentiated between the two killing fields – was meant to be in the media release too.
Mashigo said the words “The militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons. Police retreated systematically and were forced to utilise maximum force to defend themselves,” was also dictated by Phiyega.
In its final report, the Farlam commission stated that Phiyega had sought to conceal the second killing field from the public.
At Scene 1, 17 people were killed and several wounded. At Scene 2 another 17 died and 15 were wounded. Scene 2 is subject to some of the most controversy, as miners appeared to have been shot in the back, while other evidence was found pointing to conclusions that fleeing miners were pursued and, in effect, extrajudicially executed by police officers.
If the board of inquiry accepts Mashigo’s testimony, it could prove damning for Phiyega as it would stand as evidence of her deceit while testifying at the Farlam commission.