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Bishop says sorry to Marikana police

Bishop Jo Seoka has apologised to the families of policemen who have died in the line of duty.

The South African Council of Churches Bishop Jo Seoka. Picture: Taurai Maduna/Eyewitness News.

MARIKANA - Bishop Jo Seoka on Friday apologised to the families of policemen killed in the line of duty after saying the South African Police Service (SAPS) cannot be trusted.

He made the comments while testifying at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry at the Rustenburg Civic Centre about his involvement in trying to negotiate a truce shortly after 34 miners were gunned down in a clash with police on August 16.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popru) lawyer Louis Gumbi expressed shock at the statement, especially from a spiritual leader, saying it could setback the fight against crime.

Seoka did not believe this was the case, but obliged when Gumbi suggested he apologise because it may offend families of slain officers.

"If they died in the line of duty, doing their work as prescribed, I'm sorry about that."

The bishop has shown very little sympathy for police involved in the Marikana shooting, despite only arriving in the area on the day of the deadly killings.

Seoka wrapped up his testimony by recommending that the koppie in Marikana be declared a national monument to honour the fallen miners.

"I would like to suggest that the koppie be declared a monument as a gesture for healing of memories."

Earlier in the wage strike, two police officers were killed in violent protests.

Last week, police presented evidence showing that miners opened fire during the bloodbath.

But it emerged that police fired a lot more shots on the day of the incident.

At least 210 rifle cartridges were found at a scene where 16 protesters were gunned down.

Officers maintain they had no other option but to protect themselves against the angry miners.

The commission has four months to complete its investigation and was set up by President Jacob Zuma to investigate whether police were justified in using live ammunition on the day in question.

Retired judge Ian Farlam is heading the hearing.

'LOTS OF LESSONS'

Meanwhile, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi on Friday said there are lessons to be learnt from the violent protests at the Marikana mine.

He said the unrest highlighted the fact that 18 years into democracy, workers still live in appalling conditions and this should change.

Speaking in Kempton Park on Gauteng's East Rand, he said the biggest threat to the stability is the gap between the rich and the poor, which he believes is racially linked.

The minister said spatial planning has played a big role in entrenching the apartheid legacy.

"We had an opportunity to come up with new special planning if you look at what is going on in Rustenburg."

Nxesi said the construction industry should also address inequality issues.

"Our task in the construction industry is to address the unacceptable disparities between blacks and whites."

He made an impassioned plea to the sector to help government by training and employing young black people.