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Marikana tragedy was unique - Phiyega

SA’s police chief testified that she sympathised with the families of Marikana victims.

Police commissioner Riah Phiyega testified at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg on 14 March 2013, about the police's conduct on the day 34 miners were gunned down during clashes with police. Picture: SAPA

RUSTENBURG - National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega on Thursday said she sympathised with the families of the men who died in the Marikana shooting and understood the impact the incident had on the country.

Phiyega testified at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg. She gave testimony about the police's conduct on the day 34 miners were gunned down during a violent stand-off.

At the time Lonmin miners were on strike to demand better wages. The situation was exacerbated by union rivalry, with the lesser-known Amcu blaming Cosatu-affiliated NUM for not helping the workers.

Video footage of Phiyega telling police officers that despite the events in Marikana, they represent the best of responsible policing was shown again yesterday.

But when testifying, she expressed her sympathy to those who lost their loved ones.

"I am cognisant of the enormous pain which the tragedy has caused our country."

Phiyega said the shooting at the mine is "deeply regrettable" but stressed it was an isolated incident and that police could have in no way fully prepared for events at thekoppie where the protesting workers were based.

Legal teams were not ready to cross-examine the police commissioner yesterday, so the commission will resume on Tuesday.

Commissioner Ian Farlam and his team are hearing evidence to determine what happened in the days leading up to 16 August 2012 when violence peaked at the mine.

They will hear if the police's actions were justified and what role Lonmin management and unions played in trying to resolve the almost six-week long wage dispute.

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