Court victory on costs for Marikana victims

MINERS from Lonmin’s Marikana mine have succeeded in their fight for state funding to cover the cost of their legal fees at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.

As a result, Eastern Cape advocate Dali Mpofu – who represents those who were wounded and arrested, together with the families of those who died at Marikana – returns to the inquiry today.

The Johannesburg High Court ruled yesterday that the miners who survived the Marikana shooting last year and the families of those who died must receive legal funding from the state.

In July, Mpofu temporarily withdrew from the inquiry because of a lack of funds, pending a review application to set aside a decision by the Minister of Justice and the Legal Aid Board to refuse the miners state funding. At the time, Mpofu said the miners had been denied the right to a fair public hearing and the decision was therefore unconstitutional.

He said without the miners’ input, the commission’s only function would be to “whitewash the police”.

Mpofu couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday but the ruling was welcomed by victims’ relatives who attended the court in support of Mpofu.

Nonkululeko Ngxande, whose husband Mphumzeni Ngxande died in the shooting, said it was what they had been waiting for. “First we were told not to attend the hearings in Rustenburg, but Mpofu and his team fought for us.

“In July we were told there was no money to pay them for this work, and that has been dismissed by this court.

“We have been praying for this day and now that we have been granted the funding, our wish is for this commission to speed up. We want to get closure on this matter,” she said.

Mthuthuzeli Xego, who lost his cousin Mafolosi Mabiya in the shooting, said Mpofu had proved to be an advocate for the poor.

“He has proved to us, the families of the victims, that he was on this case to help us. lawyers would have pulled out but he stayed and fought this in court, and all this for the innocent victims who died and those who were left wounded.

“We really appreciate his efforts,” said Xego.

In July, the high court dismissed an urgent application by the injured miners for interim funding to be represented at the inquiry, pending the outcome of their review application.

On August 19, the Constitutional Court refused Mpofu’s team leave to appeal the ruling because the main issue had not yet been decided.

It said Mpofu and his team didn’t do enough to show why the interim ruling by the High Court should be overturned.

The inquiry, headed by retired judge Ian Farlam, sitting in Pretoria, is looking into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 people at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West where on August 16 2012 police shot dead 34 people – mostly striking Lonmin workers – wounded 70, and arrested 250. In the preceding week, 10 people died, including two policemen and two security guards.

The commission was set up by President Jacob Zuma and was suppose to sit for four months but has been delayed for a number of reasons, including attacks and arrests of some of the witnesses.

This is its 13th month of sitting.

Nomkhitha Sompeta, a relative of a victim, said they would attend the commission until November.

“This has been a constant reminder of how our brothers died here. We are hoping for an end to this, the commission needs to find answers,” she said.

According to a Sapa report, George Bizos of the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation said yesterday he hoped the court victory would minimise the need for postponements, which had been a frequent feature at the commission.

“We have been informed reliably by one of our colleagues ... that the application for funding has succeeded,” said Bizos. — bonganif@dispatch.co.za with additional reporting by Sapa

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