Marikana inquiry postpones hearings

2012-10-03 14:33
Workers of Lonmin's Marikana mine. (Leon Sadiki, City Press)

Workers of Lonmin's Marikana mine. (Leon Sadiki, City Press)

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Rustenburg - The Marikana Commission of Inquiry has adjourned hearings until October 22.

This was to allow victims' families to get to the hearings in the North West.

The inquiry decided to delay hearing evidence from police forensic experts and crime scene investigators after lawyers argued that it would prejudice the victims' families if that evidence was to be led in their absence.

Many of the miners hail from the Eastern Cape, hundreds of kilometres away from the North West town where the hearing is taking place.

The families are not expected to reach the town until Monday, according to one of their lawyers, Dumisa Ntsebeza.

"This commission is about dead people," said Ntsebeza, arguing for the relatives of the slain miners to be bussed to the hearing. "It's a matter of grave importance that this matter should not proceed without them."

Media footage

He said most of the victims' relatives live in far-flung areas of South Africa where they have no access to TV and had not seen the video footage of the killings.

"While expedition is important, there should be a level of sensitivity," he said. "It can't be correct that we inquire into the dead and their families are not here."

Former Supreme Court of Appeal judge Ian Farlam viewed that request as fair.

Farlam said waiting for the arrival of the slain miners' relatives could also give the commission more time to obtain media footage it has requested.

"I made an appeal to the representatives of the media, ...(but) I understand there has not been full response to that," he said.

Dali Mpofu, representing the 270 miners who were arrested and charged with the murder of their own colleagues under an obscure "common purpose doctrine", before authorities gave in to intense pressure and freed them, warned that "haste may result in us having a half-baked and rushed product."

"There is nobody in this country who is more keen for the finalisation of this commission than the victims," he said.

Police not ready

Renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos added his voice to support the postponement of the hearing of police evidence.

"We don't want to deprive the families of any of their fundamental rights," said Bizos, asking for a comment from the police in a discussion that lasted more than an hour.

Police lawyer Theboko Frank Mothibedi's responded saying they were not ready to present their evidence on Wednesday.

"At this stage we are not yet ready to present a version of the account of the police," he said.

But on day three of the deliberations over the August 16 violence, the court did receive post-mortem reports for 33 of the 34 miners killed by police.

One of the reports was not yet ready, while two of those turned in still required identity verification.

"What the nation is expecting from us is a proper investigation, not a superficial one," evidence lawyer Mbuyiseli Madlanga said when he handed in the pathology reports.

Wave of strikes

On Tuesday, Farlam toured the dusty plateau region where 34 miners were gunned down by police on August 16 in the bloodiest day of violence seen in the country since the end of apartheid.

Violence at mining giant Lonmin's Marikana site, in which 46 people died over the course of six weeks of unrest, was sparked by a stand-off between miners and mine owners over pay.

That strike ended with a hefty pay rise for Lonmin's 28 000 workers and prompted a wave of strikes in the mining sector.

Experts estimate some 80 000 miners are on some form of a work stoppage in South Africa.
Read more on:    police  |  lonmin  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining  |  mining unrest

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