Mine workers' lawyers want out

By Drum Digital
23 October 2012

Lawyers for miners arrested and injured in a shooting at Marikana told a judicial commission of inquiry on Tuesday that they are considering pulling out of the proceedings.

"We have found a pattern characterised by many things... treating victims of this matter with such disdain that we can't continue," advocate Dali Mpofu told the inquiry's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam.

"There has been a refusal by government to assist representatives of the victims... even with logistical support."

The police opened fire while trying to disperse a group encamped on a hill in Nkaneng, killing 34 mineworkers and wounding 78 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.

Mpofu represents the 78 injured and the 275 mineworkers arrested after the shooting.

The miners arrested were originally charged with the murder of their 34 colleagues, but charges were dropped pending the outcome of the Farlam Commission.

Mpofu said he had approached Legal Aid SA for financial assistance for the arrested miners, some of whom were among the injured.

"We received a very crass response [on Monday] which says they won't be funding them."

The only people who would receive financial support during the inquiry were the families of the miners who had died.

"So they are saying that they [the miners] should have wished they had died," said Mpofu.

Evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga told Mpofu he would speak to Legal Aid and try and sort out the situation.

Mpofu said he would be grateful for any intervention.

The commission's terms of reference identified three sets of victims, the families of the dead, the workers arrested and the injured.

"Yes, of course the most affected are those who lost family members," he said. "[However] those who were injured are equally traumatised."

Mpofu said he and his legal team met last week with the more than 200 miners they were representing at the hill where the August 16 shooting happened.

"Grown men were crying," he said.

Mpofu said his clients had been unjustly treated.

He also said five of his witnesses -- two of them key witnesses -- had been arrested.

-by Sapa

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