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South African Police Lied About Marikana Deaths, Commission Says

South Africa’s Marikana Commission of Inquiry, which is investigating the deadliest mining violence since the end of apartheid, said police may have withheld information and lied to the panel.

Lawyers for the commission over the past 10 days gained access to thousands of pages of new documents from police computers, which the police had previously claimed didn’t exist, the commission said in a statement on its website today. The documents suggest that police evidence “is in material respects not the truth,” the panel said.

Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Mahale said by phone he will release a statement later.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission to probe the deaths of 44 people during violence in August last year, including 34 killed when police opened fire on a crowd of striking workers at Lonmin Plc (LMI)’s Marikana mine, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. The panel postponed hearings to Sept. 25 to allow its lawyers to review the new evidence, the commission said.

The commission’s lawyers obtained evidence that may show some documents were “constructed after the events to which they refer” even though they were presented as being completed at the time of the incident, the panel said. The information was willingly handed to the commission by police members, it said.

The commission’s progress has already been stalled because victims and their families cannot afford to pay for lawyers. Dali Mpofu, an attorney for the victims, said his team can’t immediately comment on the documents because they are being reviewed.

The police “should have the opportunity to explain the matters which have raised our concern,” the commission said. “However, we have to say that absent a convincing explanation, the material which we have found has serious consequences for the further conduct of the work of this commission.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net

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