Legal Aid to provide funding for Marikana miners

Dali Mpofu spearheaded the application for funding for the injured and arrested miners in Marikana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Dali Mpofu spearheaded the application for funding for the injured and arrested miners in Marikana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Legal Aid South Africa announced that it would provide funding for the legal representation of the injured and arrested miners in the Marikana commission of inquiry as required by the judgment handed down by the high court in Johannesburg.

In a statement on Tuesday, Legal Aid SA reiterated its concern that funding for commissions of inquiry was beyond its mandate and budget, and that providing this funding would have to be done by reducing its judicare budget for other criminal and civil matters.

"In the final instance it should be understood that Legal Aid SA's brief is to provide legal aid assistance to the indigent and vulnerable as contemplated in the Legal Aid Act and in the Constitution," said Legal Aid SA chief executive Vidhu Vedalankar.

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

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

Vedalankar said by increasing the scope of assistance to be provided by Legal Aid SA, this ruling amounted to the organisation having to reduce its assistance to the poor and vulnerable in criminal and civil matters, to now assist those in commissions of inquiry.

She added that the organisation's annual budget allocation was fully utilised, with no allowance for anything outside its mandate. "The available funding, which was meant for criminal and civil legal aid for the poor will be compromised, meaning fewer people will receive legal aid in criminal and civil matters".

To that effect, Vedalankar said the organisation was taking legal advice on whether it would appeal the judgment, while providing legal aid in this instance to the miners, as legal aid funding for commissions of inquiry directly impacts on the organisation's sustainability.

"This decision will affect the sustainability of the organisation in providing access to justice in criminal and civil legal aid matters for the poor and vulnerable, unless special funding is forthcoming," she said.

Meanwhile, the Council for the Advancement of the South Africa Constitution welcomed the court decision and urged Legal Aid not to appeal.

"We urge Legal Aid SA to respect this judgment, adhere to it and not to appeal it," it said on Tuesday.
"There is little to be gained from further legal wrangling over funding; indeed any appeal will only serve to further deepen the wounds of these injured workers."

The families of the mineworkers who died at Marikana, including their widows, and those who were wounded returned to the commission on Tuesday.

EFF and Amcu presence
Also on Tuesday, branded berets of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the colours of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) were prominent in the gallery at the Farlam commission of inquiry's public hearings.

A few people in the auditorium also wore T-shirts bearing the logo of Bantu Holomisa's United Democratic Movement.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa sat among the families.

With his hands over his mouth, he listened as evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson SC cross-examined Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott about the methods the police used to stop strike-related protests in the Rustenburg area last year. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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