Marikana inquiry hangs in the balance
The progress of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry hangs in the balance - lawyers representing the victims' families yesterday threatened to make a high court application to halt the proceedings.
The threat follows the Department of Justice's decision to stop paying the transport and accommodation costs the victims' families incur in attending the commission's hearings.
The lawyers, some of whom have described the decision as "outrageous", will today raise the issue with both the commission and the department.
Osmond Mngomezulu, an attorney for the Socio-economic Rights Institute, who represents some of the families, said: "If the situation does not change we will bring an urgent application for review in the [Pretoria] High Court to set the department's decision aside."
Mngomezulu said part of the application would be for a postponement of the inquiry until it was made possible for the families to attend.
Family members of the 34 miners shot dead by police on August 16 have expressed outrage at the department's move.
Mthuthuzeli Xhego, whose nephew, Mafolosi Mabiya, was shot dead, said the chairman of the commission, Judge Ian Farlam, should be the one to decide who should attended the hearings.
"The millions of rands that have been thrown into this commission are for all the logistics involved, including ensuring that families are part of it," he said.
"We read in the newspapers that Farlam wanted families to be part of this but now we hear that there's no money. Really, this should be his decision, not [Justice Minister] Jeff Radebe's department," said Xhego.
The department helped to cover the families' travelling costs only after advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who represents some of the families the miners killed, questioned their absence at the inquiry.
At the start of the commission's hearings, Ntsebeza said means of financing the travel, accommodation and food should be found for the families.
Justice Department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said yesterday that the department would "deal with the lawyers' legal action when we are formally notified" of it.
"There is no legal basis on which the attendance of the family members or representatives can be sustained at state expense," the department said earlier.
Some family members who attended the proceedings last week saw video footage of the shootings for the first time.
Other Eastern Cape family members expressed their disappointment at the "abrupt" decision to cut the funding.
Jamela Thukuza, brother of killed miner Mphangeli Thukuza, of Ngqeleni village, Eastern Cape, said this was another slap in the face for the victims' families after they had first been ignored by the commission.
"We were ignored. Only the lawyers representing our families pushed for our attendance [at the hearings]," he said.
"We stand by our belief that this commission was set up to enrich a few individuals rather than help families get closure. Our brother died like a dog and it was for the government to make sure that we are part of the inquiry. "
At the weekend, Shanduka chairman and Lonmin board member Cyril Ramaphosa offered to appear before the commission to explain the e-mail correspondence on the eve of the Marikana massacre between him and senior Lonmin executives. The correspondence was revealed at the inquiry last week.
In the e-mails, released by advocate Dali Mpofu, who also represents families of the dead miners, Ramaphosa wrote to Lonmin's chief commercial officer, Albert Jamieson, on August 15, saying: "The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute.
"They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such. There needs to be concomitant action to address this situation."
Ramaphosa said this weekend: "I believe there are a number of issues relevant to the deliberations of the inquiry on which I might be able to make a contribution.''
The commission's spokesman, Kevin Malunga, could not say whether Ramaphosa would appear before the commission, saying that the commissioners and evidence leaders would decide whether he should be called.