Court dismisses Riah Phiyega’s attempt to overturn findings of Marikana Commission

Almost 10 years after the massacre of 34 striking miners by police at Marikana in 2012, the Pretoria High Court has dismissed, with costs, disgraced former national commissioner of police Riah Phiyega’s attempt to have the damning findings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry overturned

Back in 2012, Daily Maverick’s veteran journalist Greg Marinovich was the first journalist to report that the majority of the 34 miners shot dead by police at Marikana on 16 August were killed out of public view “at a nondescript collection of boulders some 300 metres behind Wonderkop”.

Writing on 8 September 2012 Marinovich noted he was with City Press’s Charl du Plessis trying to fill in some of the gaps in their understanding of the tragedy that shook democratic South Africa.

“While clambering some four metres up on a boulder, Du Plessis found a stick and a pipe. Nearby were bloodstains. Then, precariously close to the edge, he spotted a bullet. A bent and scraped bullet that looked very much like an R5 bullet. It had obviously ricocheted once or even twice off the granite.”

Marinovich and Du Plessis alerted the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which sent investigators within a couple of hours, as well as a specialist crime scene investigator.

“None of these events were witnessed by media or captured on camera. They were only reported on as component parts in the sum of the greater tragedy,” Marinovich wrote at the time.

On 1 June 2021 Pretoria High Court Judge Natvarlal Ranchod finally dismissed, with costs, former national commissioner Riah Phiyega’s attempt to set aside the findings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, chaired by retired Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Ian Farlam, into 44 deaths at Lonmin mine in August 2012.

Ranchod dismissed the application with costs including those of two counsel. Phiyega launched her application for review more than 12 months after the report was published in 2015. Phiyega had hoped the SA Police Service (SAPS) would pay her legal costs.

While 34 miners were shot and killed on 16 August, the death toll included two police officers, three non-striking miners, two Lonmin security guards and three striking miners who were killed a week before the massacre.

Phiyega was suspended in October 2015 and remained on full pay with all benefits until her term of office came to an end on 31 May 2017. The final tally to the taxpayer amounted to R3.2-million.

After the release of the Marikana Commission’s report, then-president Jacob Zuma set up the Claassen Board of Inquiry (chaired by Judge Neels Claassen) into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office as recommended.

The Claassen inquiry also investigated whether Phiyega was guilty of misconduct in attempting to mislead the commission.

In the end, Phiyega was found not fit for office and the Claassen inquiry accepted evidence that the national commissioner had edited a report, removing from public knowledge evidence of the killings at the “second koppie”. These killings had initially been included in her report to Zuma.

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