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Mon Sep 01 20:44:08 SAST 2014

Witnesses row at Marikana hearings

Sapa | 26 November, 2012 16:13
Retired judge Ian Farlam speaks at the judicial commission of inquiry into the shootings at Lonmin's Marikana mine. File photo.
Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

A debate over the appearance of witnesses dominated proceedings on Monday at the Farlam Commission into the shooting in Marikana, North West, in which 34 people were killed on August 16.

Subpoenas had been served on six of the miners who were on strike at the time of the shooting, and who are now represented at the judicial inquiry by lawyer Dali Mpofu.

However, the men did not come forward to give evidence when their names were called at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.

Mpofu objected to the calling of his clients as witnesses, and said he had not been notified by the evidence leading team that this would be done.

He said the men were outside, but had instructed him that they wanted to be led in giving evidence only by their lawyers.

The three-member commission's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said it "had rights to subpoena anyone, and anyone can be subpoenaed to appear".

"If this commission wants the minister of police, or the premier of the North West to appear and he or she is not willing to do so, they will be subpoenaed to come," said Farlam.

Mpofu argued that his clients should not have been called as witnesses without his knowledge.

"No other witness will be called in this manner. If you want to call a police general, you will speak to the lawyer representing the police. These are poor, defenceless people being taken advantage of," he said.

After consensus was reached, five men were brought before the commission and stood next to Mpofu.

Farlam said that, in future, attorneys would be involved when their clients were required to testify before the commission.

Farlam instructed the men to return on Wednesday to give evidence.

He instructed the evidence leading team to make arrangements so that the men would get letters to present to their employer.

Mpofu represents about 275 mineworkers who were arrested on the day of the shooting on a hill near Lonmin mine’s platinum operation in Marikana, North West.

Police opened fire on a group of striking mineworkers encamped on the hill, killing 34 of them and wounding 78 that day.

The group arrested was initially charged with the killings, but after a public outcry, the charges were withdrawn.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa was to have testified on Monday, but his appearance was rescheduled for Tuesday, after Timothy Bruinders SC, for Amcu, said it had not received documents key to his testimony.

Farlam adjourned the proceedings before 3pm because there were no other witnesses.

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