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Marikana: Bishop sticks to his guns

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By Jonisayi Maromo

 

Rustenburg - Pretoria Anglican bishop Johannes Seoka declined on Thursday to withdraw remarks to the Farlam commission that police officers could not be trusted.

Seoka was subjected to intensive cross-examination by Ishmael Semenya, for the SA Police Service, in the judicial inquiry, sitting in Rustenburg.

“You tell us that in your 40 years as a priest, police in this country can never be trusted. That's a very harsh and extreme opinion,” said Semenya.

“You told us that you command respect in your position. Police have over 170,000 members. You are not referring to these people as untrustworthy, are you?”

Seoka replied: “I am saying not all of them.”

This prompted Semenya to say: “Bishop I am going to ask you to retract that statement made in your evidence-in-chief. Please withdraw that if it is not completely correct.”

Seoka said it would be difficult to do so. He said the police were human beings and there were good and bad members amongst them.

The attorney insisted the clergyman’s assertions were “not measured” and therefore should be withdrawn.

“You do concede that there are a whole lot of people who will attest to lives being saved by these men and women?”

Seoka agreed, but still did not withdraw his statement.

“If you look at the way police officers operate in England and the United Sates and compare it with this country, it is very different,” said Seoka.

“I find it hard to argue with you but in this country, when I want to ask a question and see a policeman, I move on... and ask when I see a civilian.”

The clergyman insisted police officers could not be trusted. He said when making a statement at a police station he preferred writing it down himself.

“You (Semenya) are a senior attorney and you agree with me that there are people in custody, and you have represented people who had their statement twisted by police officers,” Seoka said.

He said his interaction with police officers was very limited, save for a few who were members in his church.

“I do have police officers in my church who are lay ministers. They are people I trust, but largely people in this country, including me, do not trust police.”

The three-member commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is holding public hearings as part of a probe into the killing of 44

people during wage-related violence at Marikana, North West.

Thirty-four striking miners were shot dead on August 16 and 78

wounded when police tried to disperse the protesters, who had gathered on a hill near the mine.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death near Lonmin's platinum mine. - Sapa

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