Marchers demand state covers Marikana lawyer fees

Protesters have marched to the Union Buildings in response to the state's refusal to fund the lawyers representing the miners killed and injured at the Marikana massacre last year. 

The Farlam commission of inquiry was started by the government as a way to investigate what happened on August 16 last year, when 34 miners were shot dead by police outside the Lonmin mine in Marikana.

The march was organised by Citizens4Marikana, a group of South Africans with no party affiliation. They have also started a fund for the families of the victims' families, and for legal fees. So far they have raised R250 000.

It started with groups from six political parties and numerous unions gathering on a field several blocks from the Union Buildings. Each party took a section of the field, dancing and singing but with their own marshals keeping them in check. This divided the field in splashes of colour – the red of the Economic Freedom Fighters, blue of the Democratic Alliance, white of Agang, and yellow of the other opposition parties.  

Scheduled to start at 10am, it started almost two hours later, when Julius Malema, head of the Economic Freedom Fighters, arrived. The ordered march then wound its way through the streets of Pretoria to the Union Buildings. Protesters gathered in its gardens to present their demands.

Bishop Johannes Seoka, the convener of the march, said, "The government has failed to support the workers. We are marching in the hope that the government changes its decision to not support the victims with legal aid."

Several miners who had been part of the march also spoke to the audience, saying they had been shot because they wanted a pay raise, and had still not gotten their R12 500 minimum wage.

The miners' legal team was led by advocate Dali Mpofu and marchers constantly sang his name. He has withdrawn from the commission to find funding to continue the work.

The biggest complaint was that the state is funding 10 of its own advocates, using state funds, while the miners have to rely on evidence leaders to represent them.

Mosiuoa Lekota, head of the Congress of the People, said the marchers should heed the words of Nelson Mandela when he addressed workers in 1993. "He told the workers that if the ANC does to them what the apartheid government had done, they should do what they had done to the apartheid government, to the ANC." 

Throughout the march, the red of the Freedom Fighters was dominant, and Malema was the last person to speak on the small truck acting as a stage in front of the Union Buildings. 

His speech began with sly insults at what the other speakers had said, then went into attacking the ANC. "Zuma has blood on his hands. If those workers had been from the NUM [National Union of Mine Workers] they would not have been killed."

While the march was to ask for money for the legal team, Malema said that the team did not want money. "These lawyers were supplied by us. They do not want money. They are not greedy. But the law of parity exists, and you must not give one side if you do not give the other."

Loyalty towards white capital
He then went on to say that the ANC needed to be taken from power because of its loyalty towards white capital. "The ANC is the manager of white supremacy."

The memorandum was received by officials from the presidency, much to the dislike of the audience. They demanded that an elected official be sent, and not a paid official. "These are officials, they have no power. The government is not taking us seriously," shouted one. 

The memorandum gives the president until the end of September 13 to respond. If this is not forthcoming, the organisers said, they would begin working to bring more international pressure on the government. 

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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