Cops hit funding snag at Marikana commission

Retired judge Ian Farlam. (Gallo)

Retired judge Ian Farlam. (Gallo)

Lawyers for a police officer who was wounded and another who was killed during the unrest in Marikana last year are no longer being funded, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Louis Gumbi, for the family of slain officer Sello Leepaku, and for Lieutenant Shitumo Solomon Baloyi who was stabbed by striking mineworkers during the unrest, said the funding they received ceased in May.

The funding came from union the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union.

Baloyi filed an urgent court application in the North Gauteng High Court several days ago in a bid to have the South African Police Service pay his legal costs.

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega opposed the application, saying Baloyi could use the services of the lawyers representing the police.

Baloyi rejected this, saying there was a conflict of interest between himself and the police's legal team. He wanted police to fund any lawyer he chose to use. The high court dismissed his application.

On Tuesday, Gumbi said he and his team would continue representing Baloyi and the Leepaku family, despite the lack of funds.

Meanwhile, the lawyers for miners who were arrested and wounded during the unrest were still waiting for a potential donor to decide on whether to fund them.
The decision was expected to be made later on Tuesday.

Dismissed application
On Monday, the Constitutional Court dismissed their application to have the state fund them. This came after the North Gauteng High Court also dismissed their application.

Dali Mpofu, for the miners, indicated they would return to the high court to contest its decision to dismiss the application.

On Tuesday, Gumbi continued his cross-examination of North West deputy police commissioner William Mpembe.

Mpembe was present when Leepaku and another officer, Tsietsi Monene, were stabbed, hacked and shot to death.

Baloyi was stabbed in the incident.

The commission, sitting in Centurion, is investigating the circumstances that led to the deaths of 44 people during the strike-related unrest at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.

Thirty-four striking mine workers were killed on August 16 2012, when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm them. Ten people, including two police officers and security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

'An insult'
Meanwhile, the Marikana Support Campaign on Tuesday said the Constitutional Court's dismissal of the application for funding was an insult to workers.

"This was a lost opportunity for the Constitutional Court to level the playing field and affirm the new human rights culture that society is committed to," spokesperson Trevor Ngwane said in a statement.

"It is also an insult to the workers who died, and all other victims of police brutality ... The only option left is to boycott the commission and to take collective protest action to demand that the government pay the legal fees of the miners' representatives," Ngwane said. – Sapa

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