Legal Aid to decide on Marikana ruling

Legal Aid SA will decide whether to comply or appeal the high court's instruction. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Legal Aid SA will decide whether to comply or appeal the high court's instruction. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Legal Aid South Africa will "independently decide" whether to comply or appeal a decision made by the high court in Johannesburg, instructing it to fund the legal costs of miners and their families represented at the inquiry into last year's shootings at Marikana.

The court order, issued on Monday, does not compel President Jacob Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to make any arrangements for financial assistance for legal representatives of the injured and arrested miners, justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said.

"The application seeking a relief compelling the president and the minister [Radebe] to instruct Legal Aid to provide funding was dismissed, which is acceptable to us," he said. "As an independent entity, Legal Aid will have to make a determination on how to deal with the judgment: whether to implement or to appeal. I am told they are reflecting on that and will soon make a decision."

Mhaga said that had the court instructed Zuma and Radebe to facilitate funding for the miners, such a move would set an unsustainable precedent. "We went to court to say we cannot be expected to be part of an arrangement where the executive is ordered to instruct Legal Aid [to pay for the lawyers].

"They [counsel for the miners] will have to follow their [Legal Aid] procedures and prescripts on how to deal with the funding," said Mhaga.

Dali Mpofu, who represents the miners wounded and arrested in the shooting on August 16 last year, spearheaded the application for funding. He recently withdrew from the commission of inquiry because of a lack of funding.

Mpofu's attorney Musi Msimang hailed the ruling as "good news for justice".

Mortuary vehicles
The Farlam commission of inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin Platinum's mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West, last year. The police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking workers, wounded 70 and arrested 250 on August 16 2012. In the preceding week, 10 people died, including two policemen and two security guards. 

The inquiry heard on Monday at the commission's public hearings in Centurion that senior police officers wanted four mortuary vehicles to be at the hill at Marikana hours before the shootings on August 16.

Evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC, sought answers from Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott about the South African Police Service's intervention methods to curb the violent, strike-related protests. "It appears that at some stage before 8.30am on the morning of the 16th [of August] colonels Klassen and Madoda of [the South African Police Service] arranged that the Phokeng mortuary would be called to request four mortuary vehicles to come to Marikana because 'they were going to close down the miners in Marikana'.

"Only one vehicle was sent. It arrived there before any shootings took place. "Now, the only Colonel Klassen whom we are aware was involved in this [Marikana] operation is from the Katlehong TRT [tactical response team].

"Are you aware of that Colonel Klassen?" Chaskalson asked Scott, who said he was. Chaskalson put it to him that Madoda was the cluster detectives co-ordinator for the Rustenburg division.

Scott said he did not know Madoda. Chaskalson went on: "By 8.30am on the 16th, these two colonels anticipated that there may be people killed in the process of closing down the miners.

"They wanted four mortuary vehicles. Do you know how many bodies one mortuary vehicle can take?" Scott said he did not know.

Chaskalson asked: "Have you ever been involved in operations that have resulted in multiple deaths of suspects?"

Scott said he had been involved in such incidents, but "not to the extent of Marikana". Chaskalson said: "No one has in this country since 1960 [referring to the Sharpeville massacre]. Do you know if three or four people's bodies can fit in one mortuary vehicle? Were you not there when the mortuary vehicle arrived?" Scott said he did not know and had not seen the mortuary vehicle at the hill in Marikana where the shootings took place.

Chaskalson then asked if the issue of bringing mortuary vehicles had been discussed at the security joint operations committee. Scott said he could not recall. Scott played a pivotal role in drawing up the police plan to intervene during the unrest at Marikana. The plan became known as the "Scott plan".

The public hearings continue. – Sapa

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