Marikana: Do we need the lawyers?

2013-09-15 10:00

When the Farlam commission of inquiry started its work last October, it was hailed by many as a way to seek and interrogate the truth of what really happened on a koppie in Marikana last August.

The police would give their side of the story. Mining house Lonmin would be able to share its version.

And crucially, the miners who watched their brothers fall to police bullets on August 16 would be able to explain what they believed had happened.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Now, nearly a year into the commission’s work, there are far more questions than answers.

The biggest question by far is whetherthe structure of South Africa’s commissions of inquiry needs to be seriously reconsidered and reconstituted.

The past few months have been marred by fights between Advocate Dali Mpofu (for the miners) and the state, which he believes should pay his not-immodest legal fees so that he can continue his work.

But is Mpofu – and the other high-powered lawyers at the commission – really needed?

Why can’t the evidence leaders – skilled legal minds who are paid by the state and were hand-picked by retired Judge Ian Farlam to do the bulk of the work – shoulder the load alone?

Certainly, the miners deserve excellent representation, but if we were to level the playing fields by removing all parties’ lawyers, the footing would be equal and perhaps the commission could begin to focus on what really matters: finding the truth.

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