Marikana families await answers while Zuma ‘applies his mind’

2015-06-09 18:17
Police stand over the bodies of the striking miners who got shot in August 2012

Police stand over the bodies of the striking miners who got shot in August 2012 (Leon Sadiki/City Press)

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Which is more important: the continuous pain and uncertainty of hundreds of South Africans or the political considerations President Jacob Zuma has to reflect upon regarding high-ranking politicians and officials implicated in the deaths of 44 people in August 2012?

That was the crux of the arguments heard yesterday at the North Gauteng High Court as Judge Neil Tuchten heard the urgent application brought against Zuma by the wounded and arrested miners, families of the deceased and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The president’s team argued two points:

» There was no urgency in this application because Zuma had already agreed to release the report.

» Second, the high court had no jurisdiction in how Zuma conducts himself even in relation to the Marikana report.

But here’s where the problem lies: Zuma may have seen the necessity to quickly establish the Farlam Commission of Inquiry nearly three years ago but his legal team and his scantly prepared responding affidavit do not see the necessity to give closure to those affected everyday by the 2012 killings in Marikana.

That is what the miners, the families and any other member of the public want. But instead, Zuma has taken his time “studying”, “considering” and “consulting” on this report. He even boasts that he has a team to assist him – yet still no report.

An interesting point raised in yesterday’s arguments was that when Zuma established the commission he and his trusty steeds decided to include the following in the terms of the commission’s reference.

“No person shall, except in so far as shall be necessary in the execution of the terms of reference of the Commission, publish or furnish any other person with the report or any interim report if the Commission…. for publication before the expiration of a period of 14 days after it has been submitted to the President…”

Arguments were raised that this is telling as Zuma thought he only needed 14 days to read the report, consider its recommendations and figure out how to have responses to the “hard” and “difficult” questions which will arise.

But now after seeing the contents of the report he needs three months to consider the repercussions of the report and his reasons for taking this length of time are the following:

“These anticipated political ramifications require that I fully understand the consequences of the report, least of all because I will have to address the public, if not the nation, on its contents, and answer important [and difficult] questions on its meaning and impact,” said Zuma in his affidavit.

He goes on to explain that this is not a job done by him in isolation.

“I have a team of trusted and responsible officials to assist me in this task… The report is, as the applicants themselves recognise, extremely important and has the potential to impact upon not only the victims, but indeed the whole country. It is imperative that the process is not rushed… They would be violated if I chose not to give the very important report the full attention that it deserves. Unfortunately, that takes time,” so continues Zuma’s reasons for not releasing the report.

But none of the arguments from his legal team addressed tangible reasons for him taking so much time to release the report. It seems as though, and I do stress “seems” that the continuous pain and uncertainty, the anxiety and the near emotional exhaustion suffered by the affected are outweighed by the political considerations of the implications against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, former Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu and former North West police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo.

The political considerations are quite evident but Zuma’s legal team had no inclination to delve into them. The state’s (police and politicians) case at the commission was quite clear – the police shot the miners in self-defence. But evidence which we were reminded of again shows that Thembinkosi Gwelani was shot in the back of the head and still his sister, Ntombekhaya, has no idea why.

The importance of the Marikana report does not only lie in whom it implicates but how the people who came in droves will finally carry on with their lives.

But the president is adamant that the fact that he has already undertaken to release the report, but not when they want it, is hardly a reason to warrant their application getting urgent treatment.

Mr President, this is not a diplomatic tussle. For three years we have been publicly dealing with people’s lives.

Waking up every morning knowing that your son, father, brother is dead and without knowing who is responsible, yet your president holds the key to it, is against the basic human right to dignity.

Other issues raised:

» President Zuma has not even given a date as to exactly when the report will be released, before or maybe close to the date of the end of the month.

» The issue of court jurisdiction which the court has the right to hear a case regarding president’s duties

» Does Ramaphosa, who testified at the commission, have access to the report yet others don’t?

Judge Neil Tuchten has reserved judgment on the case.

Follow Athandiwe Saba on Twitter 

Read more on:    farlam commission of inquiry  |  jacob zuma  |  marikana

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