Marikana Watch

Marikana report – are victims being disadvantaged?

Judge Farlam
Farlam.jpeg

Are the families of the victims of the August 2012 shooting at Marikana deliberately or negligently being disadvantaged in seeking justice?

This is becoming a key question while President Jacob Zuma is stalling the release of the report by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the incident in which 44 people, including 34 striking miners, died, more than 100 were injured and more than 250 arrested.

Last week during the discussion of his budget vote in parliament, President Zuma finally gave a date – sort of – when he will release the report that he received at the end of March.

The president said he would release the report of the commission, which sat for more than two years, “before the end of June”. He said the commission made some serious recommendations which required careful consideration and he needed time to fully “apply [his] mind” to the matter.

He is, however, not the only person who needs some time to apply their mind to the report. For the families of those killed, who have in many cases have lost their sole breadwinner, time is fast running out. The deadline for lodging civil claims against organs of state and other role players in the Marikana shooting and events in the run-up to it, expires on 16 August this year.

Some of the legal issues involved might be quite complicated and would require careful and time-consuming preparation and consultations with potential claimants.

At the same time, while tensions are still running high in the Marikana area, it is understandable that rumours/fears have surfaced about possible tampering with the content of the report before its release.

More serious question 

The more serious question, however, is about an issue that might seriously prejudice the position of the potential claimants in terms of possible claims: With whom is the president sharing the report or elements of if in the process of applying his mind and “considering” the “serious recommendations” of the commission?

If he is, or will be, discussing the report, its implications and possible further actions with his cabinet, will Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose name surfaced before the commission in connection with the run-up to the shooting, withdraw from the discussions?

The same question applies to the current Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Susan Shabangu, who was Minister of Mineral Resources at the time of the shooting and the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, who was Minister of Police at the time.

According to reports, the group, The Marikana Support Campaign, is in possession of a 700 page-document compiled by the evidence leaders who were part of the commission. It not only heavily implicates the police, but also that the two ministers might have been responsible for the hasty implementation of an inadequate plan to disperse and disarm the mineworkers.

The senior police officer in charge of police operations on the day, lieutenant general Zikiswa Mbombo is also on record with implicating political motives in the Marikana operation. And a transcript of a conversation with a Lonmin executive reveals that she linked police action to fears over Julius Malema's popularity and nationalisation demands.

In her testimony before the commission she also conceded that police intervention at the mine was a failure, saying there were blunders in the police communication systems used on the day of the shooting.

The president and his office has strongly denied that he was at all involved in the announcement last week that general Mbombo has decided to retire from the police at the end of May.

The question, however, remains, has she had some insight to or been warned about the contents of the report? That, coupled with the delay in the release of the report, might just have given her the softer option of resigning before disciplinary action is taken against her or before she is discharged.

Equally, it can be asked whether it is coincidence that a furore has broken out around the position of Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and reports, again denied by the president, that she has been offered redeployment in the civil service or diplomatic corps?

If these reports are accurate, it could become another embarrassing situation for the president, since it is reported that she has refused the ‘offer’, instead challenging the president to fire her.

Conclusion

There might also be another root cause for the delay in the release of the report. The malaise that goes with an increasingly ‘lame duck’ administration, with an ever-growing list of unfinished business, from the police report on the Nkandla affair, to filling the cabinet position of the late minister Collins Chabane, who died in a car accident in March, to the illegal dismissing of members of the SACB board by Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

And, if the president waits too long into June before he releases the report, he might also find himself in breach of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, in terms of which an application for its release has been lodged by several organisations on 21 May. According to the regulations of the act the president has to respond within 30 days.

Whatever the reasons for stalling the release of the Farlam report, there can be no doubt that it is to the detriment of the victims who are trying to secure justice and closure. At the same time, it is creating an environment in which rumours flourish.

by Piet Coetzer

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