2 October 2012
The Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana tragedy owed it to the people of South Africa to do its work as expeditiously as possible without fear or favour, Commission chairperson and retired judge Ian Farlam said at the start of the inquiry in Rustenburg on Monday.
“Our country weeps at this tragedy, and we owe it to our country and those concerned that we do our work as expeditious as possible,” Farlam said.
Four months to report
The inquiry, which is set to begin its formal hearings on Wednesday, has been given four months to furnish South Africans with details of what led to the deaths of 45 people at Marikana near Rustenburg in the country’s North West province in what started as a wage strike by Lonmin platinum mine workers.
On 16 August, police shot and killed 34 miners who had engaged on wild-cat strikes in Marikana. Days before that, 10 people, including two police officers, died during clashes between rival unions.
The commission, appointed by President Jacob Zuma to probe the death of 45 people, including 34 striking miners, in Marikana, North West province in August, began its work at the Rustenburg Civic Centre by reading the names of each of the deceased.
Legal representatives introduced
A minute’s silence was then observed. This was followed by the introduction of the evidence leaders and legal representatives appearing for the different parties.
These include advocates Mbuyiseli Madlanga and Charles Wesley. Veteran lawyer George Bizo will be appearing on behalf of what he called “the Constitution” of South Africa, and was being instructed by the Legal Resource Centre.
Advocate Dali Mpofu is appearing for the 270 miners who were arrested as well as those injured during the confrontation with the police, while Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza is representing the 20 families of the deceased. Appearing on behalf of the police and the Mineral Resources Department are advocates I Semenya and Sipho Matebula respectively.
Commission shown Marikana scene
Later on Monday, the commission re-lived the tragedy as it combed the scene of the August 16 shooting, with crime scene experts from the South African Police Service leading Farlam, his commissioners and a sea of journalists to different spots where bodies had been found.
At least 16 bodies were found lying between five and seven metres from each other near cattle kraals about 100 metres from the Marikana informal settlement. This is also the place where a number of R5 rifles, shotguns and pistol cartridges were found, said Warrant Officer Patrick Thamae.
The majority of bodies were found on a nearby koppie, metres from the informal settlements.
Photographers shouted at each other as they battled to get the best shot of Farlam and his team manoeuvring through the small spaces in between the stones. The yellow markings on the stones with letters A to J were an indication of 10 miners who died there.
The markings on the stones, as pointed out by the crime scene experts, could point to evidence that some died while trying to hide in between the rocks in the koppies. There were also several white markings, which according to police were marks of bullet strikes.
Expected to be a tough inquiry
Witnesses were allowed to point out scenes that they thought were relevant to the inquiry. The loco inspection was expected to continue on Tuesday, with other suggested places to visit including the Lonmin mine and the informal settlements where some miners lived.
Farlam was cautious not to allow journalists to ask questions that might jeopardise the investigation make insinuations regarding what might have taken place in Marikana. That was the job of the commission, he signaled.
The commission has divided its investigation into four themes, with the first theme covering the period leading to 9 August and after 16 August. It will also probe the employer, in this case Lonmin, and whether the company’s attitude and policies did not contribute to the tragedy.
Another investigation will focus on the actions of the different trade unions, while another investigation will focus on the conduct of certain government departments including the police, the Mineral Resources and Labour Departments.
It is expected to be a tough inquiry, with some suggesting that the four months given may not be enough to unearth all the facts surrounding the massacre.
But Farlam on Monday stressed the importance of speed as the commissioners carried out their work, saying the country was awaiting its findings.
Earlier in the day, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza asked Farlam to delay the start of the hearings for two weeks to allow grieving relatives, mostly from the Eastern Cape and Lesotho, to attend the proceedings.
Ntsebeza also claimed that his team was not ready as there was still outstanding documentation critical to his preparation for the inquiry.
After a short adjournment, Farlam rejected the request to postpone the inquiry. It also emerged that the Department of Social Development was in the process of assisting affected parties and family members to attend the hearings.