AN open letter to the government:
We call on the government to urgently make financial resources available for the legal team representing the 270 miners injured and arrested on August 16 last year in the wake of the massacre of mineworkers at Marikana.
The failure to ensure that all interested legal parties before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry have adequate funding seriously calls into question the government's commitment to uncovering the causes of the massacre, and it also poses a serious risk to the integrity of the commission.
The government has a duty to uphold the constitution and two critical constitutional principles – access to justice and equality before the law – are at stake.
The government has not directly provided any funding for any of the victims of the violence, although it has indirectly provided some funding via Legal Aid South Africa to the team of advocates, as briefed by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri) representing the families of 36 deceased miners.
The commission is set to continue until the end of October.
By then it will have sat for a year – far longer than the four months originally planned.
This has stretched the resources of the donor-supported Seri, which represents the families of 36 miners who were killed on and in the days before August 16, as well as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
It has placed considerable strain, too, on the Legal Resources Centre representing the Benchmarks Foundation.
The legal team for the injured miners, headed by Advocate Dali Mpofu, has thus far only received donor support for three months of the 10 months the commission has already sat. All the while, the government supports large legal teams for the South African Police Service as well as the police minister, and the Department of Minerals and Resources.
It is not acceptable that the government finances the legal teams for the police, who shot dead 34 miners and injured 270 on August 16, but does not ensure that the legal teams for the victims are adequately financed.
Now that all the legal teams representing the victims have withdrawn in solidarity following the withdrawal of the Mpofu team, the only interested parties that are left at the commission are the heavily-resourced Lonmin, the National Union of Mineworkers, SAPS and the South African Human Rights Commission, which is operating on a strained budget and in accordance with its constitutional mandate to monitor the process and ensure the protection of human rights, along with various other government departments.
Without legal representation for the injured miners, there can be no level playing field.
Should the hearings continue without the participation of the legal teams representing the victims it would be a travesty of justice.
That this matter will now have to come before the Constitutional Court is a serious indictment of the government and, in particular, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development and the presidency.
We therefore call on the government to ensure justice for the slain and injured miners of Marikana by making sufficient funding available for the legal teams representing the victims of the violence on and before August 16.
The Marikana Support Campaign