29 October 2012

South Africa: Families Need to Attend Marikana Hearings - Lawyer

Photo: Booysen Thamaga/SAPA
Striking Lonmin miners gather on a hill near the Marikana mine during a protest action in August 2012.

Rustenburg — The families of Lonmin mineworkers were entitled to attend a judicial commission's hearings into the shooting in which they were killed, a lawyer representing the families said on Monday.

The hearings, at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, should be halted until the families were able to attend, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of 21 of the dead miners, submitted to the commission led by retired judge Ian Farlam.

"We are not able at this stage, to ascertain the veracity of the undertakings made... [to fund the families' attendance]," he told the Farlam commission.

On Saturday, the justice department said it would no longer fund the families' attendance at the hearings.

It said some of them had said they would prefer to have the travel money paid directly to them, as they were struggling as a result of the loss of their breadwinners.

However, evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga told the commission on Monday that the State had undertaken to amend its policies to enable the funding of the families' accommodation and transport.

"[The department said] it will fund the families who are willing to attend the proceedings.

"[However], I don't think anyone was forced to attend."

Madlanga said the justice department was looking for a statutory amendment. "They are pushing to have this done today [Monday]."

"We submit that if there are amendments to be made, we wait for those amendments to be made," said Ntsebeza.

"We are in constant contact with the families. They want to attend the hearings, all of them. The attendance shouldn't be interpreted in legal or statutory terms. They want to attend and hear what happened to their relatives," he said.

The two front rows at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, which were set aside for the families, were empty on Monday.

Thirty-four miners at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana were killed and 78 wounded when the police opened fire on them while trying to disperse a group of striking workers gathered on a hill in Nkaneng, near the mine, on August 16.

The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks and iron rods.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500. Within four days, 10 people had been killed, two of them policemen and two of them security guards.

The day after the shooting, President Jacob Zuma ordered a commission of inquiry into its cause.

Madlanga said the Legal Aid board would have a teleconference on Monday to discuss financial help for the injured and arrested miners, represented by advocate Dali Mpofu.

He also dealt with the four miners who were arrested last week Tuesday.

"Saps [the SA Police Service] is saying we are entitled to exercise our obligation or rights [to arrest suspects]," said Madlanga.

He said the police felt divulging the information in the arrest docket would disadvantage their case.

North West police said the miners were arrested on October 23, in connection with killings around the Marikana hostel. They were on their way back from the inquiry at the time.

Madlanga asked that the arrest docket be made available to the commission and assured the police that the information would be kept confidential.

"Mr Dali [Mpofu's] clients and indeed his legal team... are of the view, position and belief that the arrests were used to thwart his clients [who were attending the commission].

"The commission can only test this perception if it is given sight of the docket," said Madlanga.

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InFocus

Mine Hearings in South Africa Should Be Halted, Says Lawyer

Striking Lonmin miners gather on a hill near the Marikana mine during a protest action in August 2012.

The judicial commission's hearings into the killing of Lonmin mineworkers should be halted, until relative of the slain miners are able to attend, says a lawyer representing the ... Read more »