31 October 2012

South Africa: Marikana Commission Continues With Police Officer's Evidence

Photo: SAPA stringer
Police on the scene at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana in the North West where ongoing violence resulted in the shooting of a number of people on Thursday, 16 August 2012.

Pretoria — The Marikana Commission of Inquiry is expected to continue on Wednesday with more testimony from a crime scene expert.

Over the past few days, the Commission, which is tasked with establishing the cause of police opening fire on a group of striking miners employed by Lonmin Platinum Mine, has heard testimony from crime scene technicians.

A policeman is expected to continue with his testimony on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Legal Aid South Africa said it had committed R1.2 million on 19 October to cover the costs of the legal team briefed by Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and led by Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza, acting on behalf of 23 families of deceased miners.

Legal Aid SA was approached for assistance with legal representation at the Commission by various parties, including SERI representing the 23 families of deceased miners as well as Maluleke & Msimang Attorneys, representing 275 formerly arrested and 78 injured miners.

Legal Aid SA's policy, as contained in the Legal Aid Guide 2011/2012, does not make provision for it to make available legal representation at commissions of inquiry, nor is it funded to do so by the Department of Justice.

The Legal Aid Guide does, however, provide the CEO with a general discretion to provide for any issue not covered in the Legal Aid Guide.

"In so far as we do not provide funding for commissions, the CEO exercised her discretion in consultation with the Board Executive Committee that an exception should be made on a very limited basis to provide funding for the families of the deceased miners as they had lost their breadwinners. This meant that they had a substantial and material interest in the outcome of the commission," Legal Aid SA CEO Vidhu Vedalankar and board chairperson Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said.

It was further decided that an exception could not be made for the arrested miners, some of whom were also injured.

"We hold the further view that the interest of the miners, in general, would not be prejudiced as their respective unions, NUM and AMCU, are represented at the commission and they therefore have the mandate to protect their members' interests," they said.

Legal Aid SA was made aware of concerns raised by the chairperson of the Commission, Judge Ian Farlam, whose view was that those who were arrested and/or injured on 16 August 2012 were no less deserving of legal representation as the families of the deceased motivated the need for separate legal representation for the arrested and injured miners, the two added.

Legal Aid SA then considered the issue of funding for the arrested and injured miners for a second time.

"... After an in-depth discussion with the Board Executive Committee, we once again reaffirmed the basis of our original decisions i.e. our policy in the Legal Aid Guide not making provision for assistance to parties at commissions of inquiry and our budgetary constraints.

"We still hold the view that we cannot go beyond making an exception for the families of the deceased miners. Our view remains that there is ample identity of interest between the miners seeking our assistance and those of the unions already represented in the commission. For this reason, we can see no basis for additional representation," they said.

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