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Phiyega's denialism is galling, disrespectful and dangerous

The Times Editorial | 2013-08-16 07:32:17.0

Denialism is a dirty word - it is a pathetic excuse for copping out of one's responsibilities. Disguised, it can be used to shirk or shift responsibility onto others or it can be used to deny the existence of a problem - a very real and continuing deadly problem.

In this case, the denialism, although veiled, is being practised by national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega.

Like former president Thabo Mbeki's denialism after the 2008 xenophobic attacks, which he labelled nothing more than barbaric criminal acts, Phiyega's denial makes a mockery of the deaths of many.

Phiyega, when launching the Mine Crime Combating Forum on Wednesday - just days before today's one-year anniversary of the Marikana massacre - appealed to people not to give rivalry between labour unions as a reason for the deaths of dozens of people on the platinum mining belt over the past year.

The forum that Phiyega launched, which has the police playing a leading role, aims to bring peace to the violence-ravaged mining industry.

Phiyega, in her speech in Rustenburg, appealed to people not to rush to link "each and every" incident to differences between unions.

"Lots will happen in this area - murders, clashes - but not all of it is inter-union rivalry."

The comment, and her refusal to answer questions about why it took a year for the forum to be launched and why - if union battles are not one of the causes of the violence - the forum was established, leaves one with much to think about.

If denialism is allowed to be used every time strong leadership is needed in the country then the battles and deaths of so many in the fight for dignity, equality and basic human rights will have been in vain.

Those elected to lead must lead.

Our leaders must know they have a responsibility to the nation, and that responsibility cannot be one of denial.

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