Casac has called on government to provide funding for the legal representation of Marikana miners, to protect the integrity of the Farlam commission.
In a statement on Monday, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) said government's failure to provide funding for legal representation for the mineworkers who were injured and arrested during the Marikana massacre "flies in the face of government's latest initiative to restore stability to the mining sector".
At the start of the week, retired judge Ian Farlam postponed the commission until Thursday to allow lawyers for the injured and arrested miners to file papers at the Constitutional Court. The lawyers, led by Advocate Dali Mpofu, are appealing a decision by the North Gauteng High Court, which last week dismissed an application to force the state to provide funding for the miners' legal teams.
Until the matter is resolved, Mpofu and the miners he is representing have temporarily withdrawn from the commission. Lawyers representing the deceased families and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have also temporarily withdrawn in solidarity.
"It is regrettable that this issue of funding for legal representation has ended up in the courts. The primary responsibility rests with government to ensure that the Commission it has appointed is able to discharge its mandate, and this must include hearing all parties involved," Casac chairperson Sipho Pityana said.
Mpofu first applied for funding on behalf of the miners in October last year. Government did not respond for six months.
Casac said government and Farlam needed to urgently meet with the representatives of these workers to ensure that the work of the commission can proceed unhindered.
Stability in the mining sector
The council said stability in the mining sector could not be achieved while those affected by the events of August 16 last year were not present at the commission.
"The framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry, championed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, is premised on an inclusive approach that seeks to ensure that all stakeholders contribute towards a stable environment in the mining sector. This cannot be achieved if some people are effectively excluded from participating in the Farlam commission of inquiry," said Casac.
"The Farlam commission of inquiry has a hugely important role to play in establishing the facts of what happened at Marikana on that fateful day in August last year, and to recommend action to be taken to prevent a recurrence of such a disaster.
"That day that has the potential to haunt us for a very long time if we do not as a nation deal with all the circumstances and factors that allowed it to take place.
"That is the very reason that immediately after the horrific events at Marikana on August 16 last year, we called upon the President [Jacob Zuma] to establish an independent commission of inquiry. We must now ensure that the integrity of the Farlam commission is protected, that it is able to hear from all those affected by the events at Marikana, and properly discharges its mandate," Casac said.
Casac said government, but specifically Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe must therefore provide funding for the injured and arrested miners, "to enable them to effectively participate in the commission".