MPs criticise SAHRC for Marikana investigation
Members of Parliament have questioned the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) decision to investigate the Marikana massacre, especially the commission's use of the same lawyers that are representing some of the families of the deceased in Marikana.
MPs suggested that in conducting its own investigation, the SAHRC might interfere with the work of the judicial commission of inquiry, appointed by President Jacob Zuma.
ANC MP John Jeffery said he was "baffled" by the SAHRC's involvement in Marikana, given the judicial commission of inquiry.
"I think it's a complete waste of resources," said Jeffery. "What is the point of the SAHRC doing that, when there is a full-blown judicial commission of inquiry, which has been given a specific time limit; where all the evidence will be subject to cross examination.
"You know the situation is that with all the statements you get from witnesses, the more you damage the ability to give evidence, because each time you remember something or you recount what you saw, you remember it slightly differently and you have conflicting versions."
Jeffery said he was wary of a situation where the commission of inquiry made findings and the SAHRC made different findings. "How is that going to help us?"
The DA's Dene Smuts echoed Jeffery’s sentiments saying the SAHRC needed to give a "justification" for their investigation.
"Which rights are you looking into? How do justify the work you are doing and how are you going to put it infront of the judicial commission?" asked Smuts.
"I don’t see how you're going to do this. You are potentially going to interfere. You are muddying the water," said Smuts.
The SAHRC’s deputy chairperson, Pregs Govender, defended their stance, saying the commission had done an Anglo Platinum report which was specifically in relation to mining and human rights some years ago.
She said there was also a Bench Marks Foundation report, which was launched just before the Marikana shooting, and which has very specific recommendations in relation to SAHRC.
The report suggested the commission should investigate numerous problems, including violations of the right to learn in the Rustenburg area; mines that have "trumped the land rights of communities"; and the role of traditional leaders in negotiating the commencement and operation of mining.
Another commissioner, Janet Love, said the investigation would also enable the SAHRC to put before the commission of inquiry a range of contextual issues that have played a role to building up a level of tension in the area and level of problems.
The commission's CEO, Kayum Ahmed told the committee that they have enlisted the services of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) to assist in their investigation.
"We were approached with a complaint against the police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, in terms of her overall responsibility as an accounting officer in terms of what happened regarding human rights violations.
"We asked the LRC to break it down for us into the conduct of the police during the demonstrations; the shootings; the allegations of people being shot in the back; and the subsequent allegations of torture."
Ahmed said there was a need for a sound investigation "where we can rely on credible evidence and credible process with lawyers, with statement takers, investigators, [and] forensic pathologists", hence the request of the LRC's help.
MPs said this presented a potential conflict of interest and could potentially compromise the SAHRC's independence or the perception of its independence.