R170m of Marikana claims settled, but legal wrangles continue

Despite the government paying more than R170.7-million to victims of the brutal August 2012 Marikana massacre, it is still embroiled in a legal wrangle over the “once and for all” rule related to payment. 

Fhedzisani Pandelani, who is based in the solicitor general’s office in the justice and constitutional development department, told a briefing on Tuesday that the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) wanted an additional R1.5-million for each of the 36 families it is representing in their claims against the government for the massacre, whose ninth anniversary was commemorated on Monday

Pandelani said the government had paid Seri, on behalf of its clients, more than R69-million to 35 of 36 claimants, and the state wanted to pay an additional R500 000 to each of the organisation’s clients. 

“If you were to invoke the ‘once and for all’ rule, you would actually accept that, having paid just under R70-million on behalf of 35 families, the matter would have been resolved,” Pandelani said. 

The payments to families are related to the week of 16 August 2012, when 44 people were killed during an unprotected strike by mineworkers at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, North West. The workers had demanded a R12 500 monthly wage each, as well as better living conditions.

Thirty-four mineworkers were gunned down on 16 August when the police fired to disperse them, and scores sustained injuries. 

On Tuesday, Pandelani said the sticking point was the “general and constitutional damages” rights that Seri sought from the government, which had offered R500 000 for each claimant. 

“As matters stand now, the only way in which we can resolve this issue will be to refer back the matter to court, perhaps, if it is not resolved,” Pandelani said. 

In addition to the more than R69-million that the government had paid Seri’s clients, Pandelani said the state had given more than R97.6-million to 253 families represented by Nkome Attorneys, as well as almost R4-million to the Wits Law Clinic’s sole claimant. The money started being disbursed from 15 August 2018, Pandelani said. 

He added that more than 30 other families of injured miners, represented by two law firms, were still in negotiations with the government and that, hopefully, all payments would be finalised shortly. 

The solicitor general’s office stressed that, should any of the claimants feel aggrieved about payments, or want to make sure that the figures released on Tuesday by the government were correct, all families were free to contact the state attorney’s office, which had streamlined the process and would make records available. 

“Unfortunately, once you choose to be legally represented, we are precluded from actually approaching that particular client to say: ‘Can we sit down and settle this matter’,” Pandelani said.

“We need to go via the acceptable prescripts and speak to [their] attorneys.”

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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