Riah Phiyega's statement to the Marikana commission

Police chief says Lt. General Mbombo informed her of decision to implement dispersal operation on afternoon of August 16



I, the undersigned, MANGWASHI VICTORIA PHIYEGA, hereby make oath and declare as follows:

1. I am the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, having been appointed to the position by the President of the Republic of South Africa on 12 June 2012. I am stationed at the Police Headquarters in Pretoria at 231 Pretorius Street Wachthuis Building, Pretoria. I make this statement in my capacity as such.

2. The facts herein deposed to are, unless the contrary appears from the context, within my own knowledge, and are both true and correct.

3. I stand before you as National Commissioner of the South African Police Service to tell you that the performance, professionalism and integrity of the Service as a whole are ultimately my responsibility.

4. The events at Marikana in August 2012 are of concern to me as well. The protracted and ever increasing violent protest at Marikana, which culminated in the catastrophic and unprecedented loss of life, is to me, regrettable.

5. Extrapolating operations since 2009 to 2012, SAPS handled a total of 33 521 public order incidents. Of these 30 326 were peaceful, 3 195 were not peaceful. Annually over this period, SAPS dealt with an average of 11 000 public order incidents and protests, the vast majority of which are resolved without any loss of life or injury. This is achieved through institutionalised standard operating procedures, carried out by the trained and properly supervised professionals from designated law enforcement as well as public order policing units, and where appropriate assisted by specialised unit. In addition, the police provide services that are underpinned by tested structure, management and strategies in law enforcement and public order policing. The events at Marikana have no precedent in the history of our organisation in democratic South Africa.

6. I was appointed on 12th of June as the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service. It is common knowledge that I have no previous experience as a police officer.

7. The SAPS is a national police service of the Republic of South Africa consisting of 116 police stations divided according to the provincial demarcations. In this regard, I am supported by a team of 9 Provincial Commissionerss appointed in each province. The 9 Provincial Commissionerss report directly to me as the NC. At both national and provincial level, sound administrative, operational and technical support teams are appointed to ensure efficient and effective SAPS delivery on its mandate.

8. The total staff complement of the SAPS is about 200 000 which makes it one of the largest government departments in the country. The national police to population ratio is 1:306. South Africa compares well with many other Countries such as:

  • United States of Amercia 1:256
  • Brazil 1:282
  • Australia 1:217
  • Botswana 1:418

9. The capacity growth in SAPS contributed immensely towards the organisations ability to reduce crime and to maintain public order.

10. I lead an organisation dedicated to upholding the law, to serving and protecting the community and its property pursuant to the SAPS' constitutional mandate in congruent with the bill of rights as enshrined in our constitution which guarantees rights to peaceful and unarmed demonstrations and / or protests. I therefore discharge this mandate through my leadership and operational command structures of men and women committed to serve with professionalism, integrity, honesty, compassion and a commitment to excellence and placing service to others before self. There is no future in any society without law and order. South Africa, as a young democracy, is highly dependent on focused, elaborate and directed law enforcement. Public Order is the bedrock without which our democracy cannot succeed.

11. There is a significant prevalence of police attacks and killing in South Africa. Diverse initiatives are undertaken to eradicate these attacks and killings. For the period 2010 to 2012, 907 attacks on police both on and off duty were recorded. The attacks resulted in 174 police killings for the same period. In recognition of the traumatic nature of the job of policing, the SAPS established a support structure - the Employee Health and Wellness - which offers preventative and remedial psychological, spiritual and social work support to SAPS members. Such services are extended to the families of members.

The Marikana Events

12. On the 13th of August 2012 at approximately 15h00 I received a call from the Provincial Commissioner of the North West, Lt. General Mbombo. She informed me that in the week before the 13th August 2012 a situation had developed in Marikana, and more particularly at the Lonmin Platinum Mine, which claimed the lives of four people including two security guards. This necessitated the deployment of more police officers to keep the peace. She advised me that violence and escalated resulting in the deaths of five (5) people. These included two police officers.

13. I regarded the information that had been given to me by General Mbombo as sufficiently grave to cause me to travel to Marikana. I left for Marikana on the same day accompanied by the Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng Province. Lt General Mzwandile Petros. We arrived at approximately 18h00.

14. We met with Lt General Mbombo, Major General Mpembe and Brigadier Calitz, the operational commander at the time.

15. General Mpember and Brigadier Calitz briefed us about the protests which had been taking place at Lonmin which had escalated into violence and spread beyond the Lonmin Platinum Mine area and had engulfed the whole area commonly referred to as Marikana. They informed me that up to then nine deaths had been recorded.

16. Lt General Mbombo, Lt General Petros, General Mpembe, Brigadier Calitz and I then proceeded to the Lonmin Platinum Mine officers. At the mine offices, we met with the Lonmin delegations, which included Mr Mokoena, Mr Kgothle and others.

17. The mine management informed the SAPS delegation that there were on-going clashes between the members of the two labour unions, AMCU and NUM. The management further stated that the clashes had already claimed the lives of nine people as we were briefed by the police. We were also informed that several vehicles had been torched. The mine management further stated that the protestors were not their employees and are unknown to them and that as such Lonmin found no reason to negotiate with what they referred to as ‘faceless people'.

18. In the light of Lonmin stating that they had no knowledge of who the protestors were, my delegation made a suggestion that it would be important for those protestors to be profiled by the SAPS and for Lonmin to ascertain who they were.

19. At the meeting some consensus was reached that a solution had to be found to end the violence. I instructed the Provincial Commissioner to continue with their efforts to bring the competing unions to the negotiating table so as to ensure that the violence comes to an end. I further impressed on the management of Lonmin Platinum Mines to do everything in their power to ensure that the situation is normalised.

20. At or about 23h00 of the same day I met with operational officers at the SAPS JOC in Marikana. The operational officers gave me an overview of the situation. I emphasised to the SAPS commanders and the team the importance of ensuring that efforts be made to prevent further loss of live and destruction of property. I urged commanders to seek assistance in order to carry out the SAPS' constitutional mandate of protecting the lives and property of the citizens of the Republic. I left for Pretoria on the same day.

21. I continued receiving regular situational reports about the events that were unfolding in Marikana. On the 15th of August 2012, while attending the SAPS National Management Forum Meeting in Midrand, I was informed by Lt General Mbombo of a possibility of a peaceful resolution being reached. She informed me that she had been told that Mr Mathunjwe of AMCU had promised the protestors would lay down their weapons at the koppie at 09h00 on the 16th August and thereafter leave the koppie.

22. Lt General Mbombo further informed me that if the above undertaking failed to materialise, the police would have to disperse the crowd.

23. On the afternoon of August 16th 2012, I received a call from Lt. General Mbombo who informed me of the decision to implement a dispersal operation of the plan.

24. Later that day Lt. General Mbombo informed me about the tragedy that had just occurred. She said that the protestors had charged at the police with an assortment of dangerous weapons. She relayed that the police had also been fired at and that the police had shot and killed a number of protestors which later turned out as 34 in private-defence. I was also informed that 259 protestors had also been arrested. I then related the same information to the Minister of Police telephonically and advised him that I shall be attending to the matter personally.

25. On the same day, I travelled to Marikana where I met with General Mbombe and the SAPS team at the JOC and I was given a briefing on the events of what had happened. I received a briefing from Lt. General Mbombo assisted by General Annandala, General Naidoo, Brigadier Calitz and Lt Colonel Scott. At the close of the briefing, we agreed to hold a press briefing the next day.

[] address a press conference with regards to the events of the 16th of August 2012 as I understood them, given the information that I had received from my commanders.

27. On the afternoon of the 17th August, we returned to Lonmin where I attended a parade arranged by Employee Health and Wellness personnel for prayer and counselling sessions. I addressed the members on parade and encouraged them to continue to attend such sessions for emotional healing.

28. On 19 August 2012, I attended the funeral of the late Warrant Officer Lepaku one of the two police officers who lost their lives on 13th August 2012 where I addressed the mourners and the members of SAPS to be resilient under the circumstances.

29. On the 20 August 2012 I addressed members of the SAPS at a parade at the JOC. I informed the parade that the President had established a Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana tragedy, as well as the fact that a week of national mourning had also been declared. I thanked the officers for having put in so many hours per shift in pursuit of peace and stability in the country.

30. Having learnt about the announcement of the commission by the President, members were invited to Potchefstroom to prepare for the submission to the commission. As the National Commissioner I took it upon myself to visit the members to establish the progress of the preparations.

31. I am cognisant of my capacity and role as the NC and a member of the South African Police Service. I respect and have the necessary regard to the office I hold. Considering the fact that as the SAPS team we are entrusted with the safety and security of more than fifty million lives of South Africa's inhabitants as well as the safety of their property. I am cognisant of the enormous pain and anguish which the tragedy has caused in our country. I therefore register my sincere condolences to the families of all who tragically lost their lives. Heartfelt sympathy to those who sustained injuries as a result of actions and or omissions by any of the parties.

I know and understand the content of this statement.

I have no objection to taking the prescribed oath.

I consider the prescribed oath to be binding on my conscience.


Signed and sworn at Pretoria on this 7th day of MARCH 2013.

Transcribed from PDF. As such there may be errors in the text.


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