Evidence leaders accused of ‘clutching at straws’ in Phiyega inquiry

The suspended national police commissioner’s legal team says she should be acquitted.

Judge Neels Claassen heads the commission of inquiry into suspended National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega's fitness to hold office. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Riah Phiyega's legal team has argued that evidence leaders have been clutching at straws to prove she's guilty.

They say based on the evidence presented, she should be acquitted.

The suspended national police commissioner is facing the Claassen Board of Inquiry into her fitness to hold office, in relation to her conduct during the mass Marikana shooting in 2012.

Phiyega has been accused of not asking pertinent questions about the police's operation and failing to take control of the situation in order to prevent bloodshed.

The suspended national police commissioner's had two legal representatives presenting closing arguments today.

First, Advocate Mahlape Sello argued that provincial commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo was responsible for making the decision, to move to a tactical phase in Marikana.

Then, advocate William Mokhari claimed evidence produced was unreliable and that evidence leaders have relied on issues that are outside the terms of reference.

"Based on the evidence that we have presented, they should actually acquit her of all the charges."

Evidence leaders are expected to submit a written reply in two weeks.

They've argued that Phiyega could be found guilty of murder or culpable homicide based on her knowledge of the police's plan in Marikana.

Evidence leader Ismail Jamie says the suspended national police commissioner should have asked police officers why they didn't move to a tactical phase on the morning of 16 August.

He says Phiyega should have foreseen the risk of bloodshed in the afternoon when there were thousands of protesters present.

But Jamie has pointed out that either way, she's guilty.

"She was not aware of the importance of the 6pm window period to undertake the operation, which should make her grossly negligent; or she did know of it, in which event she was grossly negligent and incompetent. If the finding is that she did know, then it's quite possible she is guilty of either of murder or culpable homicide."