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Another blow to justice for Marikana miners

Men injured and arrested in shooting refused legal aid, all but ending their involvement in Commission of Inquiry.
Last modified: 19 Aug 2013 21:12
Miners commemorate the Marikana shooting [Reuters]

On August 16, South Africans commemorated the one-year anniversary of the day police shot dead 34 striking miners.

It was the bloody climax of a week of violence in which 10 other people, including two police officers and two security guards were killed.

There's a Commission of Inquiry into the deaths. But for many of the miners who gathered last Friday to remember their colleagues, August 19 will be another day to mark in their calenders as one they'd rather forget when it was ruled that 300 miners who were arrested and injured at Marikana will not get government funding to pursue their cases.

Advocate Dali Mpofu has been relying on private donations to represent those miners, but the money has dried up. As a consequence, he appealed to the Constiutional Court for state funding. It is already being provided to the legal teams of the families of the men who died, the police, and officials at the ministries of Mineral Resources and Labour, who will be called to give evidence.

But his case was rejected because the inquiry is technically being dealt with by the High Court. The crux of the matter is that the miners don't qualify because the inquiry is neither a civil nor a criminal case and the Constitutional Court wasn't convinced that it was in the interests of justice that these particular miners were represented.

But it's worth mentioning that although the findings of the Commission won't result in any prosecutions, criminal proceedings against the arrested miners are on hold until its conclusion.

Ultimately the decision leaves hundreds of men who were personally involved in the strike, lost friends and in the case of about 78 of them survived injuries, with no legal say in the  inquiry.

These men survived what has been described as the worst act of police brutality since the end of apartheid and will now have no one to represent them as the police continue to claim it was self-defence.

In sympathy with their plight the renowned advocate, George Bizos, has withdrawn on the instructions of his clients - the families of the men killed.

So have the lawyers for the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union, which represents most of the Lonmin miners now.

So a year on from those 44 deaths, the room where the Commission is sitting is starting to look empty. With so many answers left to find, who will be listening?