Farlam commission postponed until October 22
The commission stuttered along on Wednesday after it had been established that police were not prepared to make their scheduled presentation, documents had still to be exchanged between the legal counsel of various stakeholders and that provisions for the transportation and accommodation of the family members of the 34 miners killed at Lonmin’s Marikana mine on August 16 – the majority of whom live in the Eastern Cape and Lesotho – had yet to be made.
Following two days of on-site inspections, the commission – which South Africans hope will uncover the truth behind post-apartheid South Africa's biggest violent tragedy – was meant to begin hearing evidence, including police video footage of the massacre, forensic evidence, post-mortems and a power point-presentation by police.
However, advocate Tebogo Mathibedi, representing the South African Police Service, told the commission they were not ready to make their presentation, which included powerpoints and several clips of footage filmed by police.
Dumisa Ntsebeza, acting for several relatives of dead miners, pointed out to Farlam that the families had not arrived at the Rustenburg Civic Hall where the hearing was being held - nor in the North West town, itself.
Ntsebeza had previously raised the matter on Monday – the first day of the commission – and it is understood that arrangements being made by the social development department to transport, accommodate and feed relatives, meant they could only arrive on October 8 at the earliest.
Ntsebeza made an impassioned plea to the commission that "while expedition is important there should be a level of sensitivity too" to proceedings.
"The commission is about dead people ... it should be justice done to the families of those who died," implored Ntsebeza, pointing to the commission's logo that incorporated the words, "Truth, Restoration and Justice".
Recalling his days as evidence leader at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Ntebeza noted that the commission "put the interests of the victims first", while also asking that counselling be provided for families once they arrived in Rustenburg.
A mid-morning adjournment became a pre-trial hearing of sorts, between the legal counsel during which a timetable of when witness lists, statements and documents would be exchanged between the parties was drawn up.
Lawyers and public interest law firms representing the various parties included the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, representing the Associated Mine and Construction Workers Union; the Legal Resource Centre, representing four of the families whose relatives were killed in the August 16 massacre, the South African Human Rights Commission and advocate Dali Mpofu, acting for the 270 miners arrested during the strike.
Advocate Mathew Chaskalson, one of the commission's evidence leaders, disclosed during the discussion of what evidence was ready to be heard or to be disseminated, that the commission still had outstanding post-mortems due to it.
According to Chaskalson, the commission had received 34 post mortems for the miners killed on August 16, of which 31 could be verified. Chaskalson said they "were not satisfied with the proof of identity" for two of the post mortems and the remaining post mortem was still to be finalised.
Mpofu brought to the commission's attention that he had written to the office of the president, Jacob Zuma, to request that the commission's terms of references be extended to include the death of Pauline Masuhlo, a councillor in Marikana who was allegedly shot by police during a government-ordered crackdown on Marikana on September 15.
The crackdown, in which Zuma ordered the army into the informal settlements of Nkaneng and Wonderkop, was followed by a negotiated settlement being reached between miners and Lonmin bosses four days later.
Mpofu said Masutlhe had died in hospital a week after being shot in the leg and that "her life is worth the same as the other victims".