Phiyega defends Marikana testimony

In an exclusive interview with EWN, Phiyega reveals adrenaline took over at the Marikana inquiry.

National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega on Wednesday said she did not believe she was out of her depth while testifying at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

President Jacob Zuma set up the hearing shortly after 34 striking miners were gunned down during a confrontation with police at the North West town.

In total, 44 people, including two police officers, lost their lives in the month-long wage strike.

Phiyega addressed questions around the shooting and the subsequent inquiry during a wide-ranging interview with Eyewitness News .

She doesn't believe she was underprepared for the inquiry, but she admitted it was an accelerated learning curve.

"My adrenaline was high. I couldn't even feel, I was just running."

The top cop says she and her officers felt vulnerable, but she showed leadership and gave them strength after the tragedy and during the inquiry.

"I realised that you are first a human being before you are a professional or a cop. There was a lot of vulnerability, we were all feeling weak and as a leader, I had to come in and actually say, 'Let's be strong'."

Phiyega moved to assure South Africans her officers are doing enough to combat violence on the platinum belt in the North West, despite ongoing murders linked to union rivalry.

"We've learnt a lot, we've upped our ante - a lot has happened. Those killings that we're talking about, we've made multiple arrests."

The commissioner says she finds it fair that police officers are receiving free legal representation at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, even though victims aren't.

She says it's wrong to vilify the police.

"It is fair. Those cops didn't wake up in the morning and go to Marikana, they went to work. Any employer must make sure, if there is a need, to defend, to protect [and] to support [employees]. The government is supporting the police purely because they were at work."

You can watch the interview by selecting the video, 'Riah Phiyega on her 15 months in office', at the top of this article.