Lawyers in spotlight at Marikana hearing

2013-05-13 21:47
(Picture: Sapa)

(Picture: Sapa)

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Rustenburg - Concerns were raised on Monday about the conduct of Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger in the inquiry into last year's fatal shooting of mineworkers in Marikana, North West.

"The people I represent are... saying the representatives of Lonmin are deliberately interrupting the proceedings," said Dali Mpofu, for the injured and arrested miners.

"They say they [Lonmin representatives] are assisting police witnesses."

Tholoana Motloenya, part of the team representing the families of the dead miners, said her clients felt the same way.

"The families also feel the same way... They feel there's a certain bias to the SAPS [SA Police Service]," she said.

"They are questioning why certain objections are being upheld, but we are trying to explain the process to them."

Earlier, Burger raised concerns about Mpofu's style of questioning with commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam.

Evidence leader, Mbuyiseli Madlanga, said while Burger did have numerous objections to questions posed to witnesses, many of them were valid.

Madlanga said Burger proved to be more alert in the proceedings and said, according to his view, the commission had been fair and unbiased.

No bias

Burger told the commission that he too represented victims.

"My clients lost [several people including] 34 workers. It caused trauma that they are still trying to recover from. Lives were lost here," said Burger.

Ishmael Semenya, for the police, rejected claims that Burger's objections assisted their case in any manner.

"I don't feel assisted by Mr Burger by one bit," he said.

National Union of Mineworkers representative, Karel Tip, said the objections were important and assisted the proceedings.

Burger questioned what advice Mpofu had given to his clients following their complaints.

"I told my clients that this is normal. Secondly, I advised them that this should be discussed in the chambers, but they said they wanted it raised here," said Mpofu.

Farlam appealed to the affected parties to try to understand the process and said it worked in the same way in the courts of law.

"I appeal to those in the auditorium to understand that this is how the system works.

"I've tried from the beginning of the commission to be fair to all the parties involved and will continue to do so until the end," said Farlam.

He admitted that he had helped witnesses who battled to articulate their answers, but maintained that he never led witnesses.

"My colleagues and I aren't biased," he said.

The commission, which is sitting in Rustenburg, is investigating the deaths of 44 people in Lonmin's wage-related unrest last year.

Police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers in Marikana on 16 August. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the preceding week.


Earlier, Mpofu cross-examined Major General Charl Annandale, who headed the police's tactical operations team during the unrest.

Mpofu argued that police laws stated that officers should always give a warning before acting, but police deployed to Marikana did not do this.

He argued that police had ample time to issue a warning to striking miners prior to opening fire on them, and the resources to issue the warnings were available.

Annandale disagreed.

"The warning advocate Mpofu speaks of doesn't fit here, because it doesn't include private and self-defence," said Annandale.

He said the police's plan was to issue a warning in two or three languages through the loud-hailers.

Time would have been given for the dispersal and another warning would have been given. The police would then use water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullets if strikers still failed to disperse.

Annandale said though the police spent around two minutes deploying barbed wire, there was no time to issue a warning.

"Even though there was that two minutes, it wasn't quiet, some action was happening," said Annandale.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  dali mpofu  |  mahikeng  |  marikana inquiry

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