ConCourt dismisses Marikana funding application

2013-08-19 11:25

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An application to compel the State to fund the legal costs of miners wounded and arrested in the Marikana shootings last year has been dismissed by the Constitutional Court.

“The application for leave to appeal is dismissed,” said Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng today.

He said the Constitutional Court was not well equipped to deal with urgent matters in general.

“Where an appeal relates to a temporary order, this difficulty becomes even more acute.”

The legal costs relate to the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin Platinum’s mining operations in Marikana, North West, last year.

A number of miners were wounded in the shootings and/or arrested afterwards. Attempts to get the State to pay for their legal representation at the Farlam commission have failed so far.

Mogoeng referred to the ruling by the High Court in Pretoria which dismissed the urgent application by the miners’ legal team several weeks ago.

“There is indeed no fraud or corruption claimed here, and the high court’s finding that there was no unlawfulness either, is a conclusion that must be treated with deference in an appeal against an interim order.”

Mogoeng said the Bill of Rights made only three provisions that explicitly entitled someone to claim legal representation at State expense.

“One provides that a child has the right to have a legal practitioner assigned to him or her by the State at State expense in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result.

“Another is that everyone who is detained has the right to have a legal practitioner assigned to him or her by the State at State expense, if substantial injustice would otherwise result.

“The third is that every accused has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to have a legal practitioner assigned to him or her by the State and at State expense, if substantial injustice would otherwise result. These do not apply here.”

Muzi Msimang, for the miners, said the legal team was disappointed and would go back to the High Court in Pretoria to argue on the main application for funding.

“The court ruled on a technicality and said the high court ruling was interim and does not therefore warrant an appeal,” he said.

The Constitutional Court did not consider the merits of the case. The miners’ legal team would not participate in the commission until funding was resolved, Msimang said outside the court.

President of the SA Council of Churches, Bishop Joe Seoka, who had been supporting the miners, said the decision would anger the workers.

“They assured us a peaceful [memorial] last week Friday, hoping that the nation would be listening. This sends out a message that the State does not care.”

The miners collected cash among themselves after the commemorations a year after the unrest in Marikana on Friday, Seoka said.

“They handed a bucket full of cash to me and said if no one was willing to fund the legal expenses, they would do it themselves.”

Thirty-four people – almost all striking mine workers – were killed in Marikana on August 16 last year when police fired on them.

Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the preceding week.

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