'All systems go' on Farlam Commission

The commission of inquiry into the killing of more than 40 miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine is set to begin in just 10 days. (AFP)

The commission of inquiry into the killing of more than 40 miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine is set to begin in just 10 days. (AFP)

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Friday morning announced that the commission of inquiry into the causes of the Marikana massacre will begin in 10 days, on Monday, October 1.

The timeline is ambitious given that it runs through the December period during which many organisations and government departments run on a skeleton staff, and workers usually return home to other provinces.

Radebe outlined the logistics for the commission at a press briefing on Friday.

"From our side it's all systems go," said Radebe.

President Jacob Zuma called for a commission of inquiry days after the killings of 45 people at Marikana, following a wage dispute at Lonmin's platinum mines.

The terms of reference for the commission were gazetted on September 12, and the commission has been give four months from the day it begins to present its final report to the president.

The offices of the commission will be headquartered in Marikana and the hearings themselves will take place at the Rustenberg civic centre.

Planning logistics
The nearby Marikana community hall, which is central to many of the informal settlements from which Lonmin draws its workforce, has also been made available to the commission.

Radebe asked that the venue be used as a remote viewing site for the public hearings that will take place at the civic centre, to be used by those who could not travel to Rustenberg for the hearings.

Its unclear what sort of budget the commission will have at its disposal for the duration of the inquiry but Radebe said the budgetary needs had been costed that his DG was liaising with the national treasury to request the funds. The justice department has also earmarked funds from its baseline allocation for the commission's start-up operations.

Radebe said that given the circumstances, security was an important consideration for the justice department.

"The prevailing environment in Marikana may require a heightened sense of vigilance in regard to security," he said.  

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster will coordinate security arrangements, and will be assisted by the minister for community safety and liaison within the North West.

Bringing out heavy-hitters
Radebe also revealed that Farlam has designated five advocates to evaluate and present evidence before the commission.
They are Mbuyiseli Madlanga, Mathew Chaskalson, Geoff Budlender, Johannes Nxusana and Charles Wessley.

The advocates, who have a depth of experience in human rights issues, will be assisted by a team of investigators. Radebe said discussions between the justice department and the commissioners on who to select as investigators are "at an advanced stage".

Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said the choice of evidence leaders makes it clear that the commission "mean's business"

"They really are employing heavy hitters to assist them and the terms of reference, with the one exception, are very comprehensive," he said.

Challenges for the commission
That exception, he said, was that the terms of reference do not explicitly require the commission to investigate the broader issues within the police force dealing with training, shoot to kill messages and the remilitarisation of the police.

De Vos said one of the biggest challenges that the commission would face going forward would be gaining the trust of all the parties involved, "to get them to come forward and give evidence and share information, in a context where there is a lot of distrust".

Another issue which has dogged previous commissions of inquiry is the ability to force individuals in the security cluster to give evidence. The Donen Commission for example failed to get crucial evidence from members of police and the security agencies because they said national security would be breached.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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