Government should get off its high horse and help settle the dispute over funding for legal representatives of wounded and arrested miners at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Advocate George Bizos has said.
Bizos said he was saddened by a response to a request for funding, which was today read to the commission by Advocate Dali Mpofu.
Mpofu, who represents the arrested and wounded miners at the hearings, said he had written numerous times to the presidency and Minister Jeff Radebe’s representatives requesting funding, to no avail.
His last attempt before taking the matter to court was also turned down. He read a portion of the letter and the response from the representatives of President Jacob Zuma and Radebe: “Your proposal has been brought to the attention of the President … under no circumstances will they fund the legal representatives for your clients.”
Said Bizos, who appears for the Legal Resources Centre: “It’s written from a very high horse. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to get people off their high horses for the benefit of all of us. I appeal to the government and representatives to get off their high horses and settle this dispute.”
Meanwhile, the hearings of the commission have been postponed till Thursday.
Mpofu had asked that the commission postpone the hearings until August 19 when the Constitutional Court would have made a ruling on financial assistance for the injured and arrested miners’ legal team.
But Bizos requested that the commission stand down until Thursday when it will be decided if it will continue without these miners.
Said Mpofu: “What we are asking the commission is not something that is easy. We would rather have a situation of where the power of what happens is taken back to the hands of the commission than to have this drama of people walking out.”
The injured and arrested miners’ representatives had pulled out of the hearings earlier and the representatives of the families of the miners who had died on August 16 pulled out in solidarity. The Legal Resources Centre also provisionally withdrew from the proceedings.
The North Gauteng High Court turned down Mpofu’s application for funding last week. He said he would approach the Constitutional Court for the state to grant funding for the representatives of the wounded and arrested miners.
He added that the request for a postponement was the lesser of two evils.
“We either delay the commission and try to find a solution to this or the commission carries on without particular parties,” said Mpofu.
Bizos said there had been some discussions with the trustees of the Bench Marks Foundation about interim funding for the wounded and arrested miners’ representatives. This was a probability.
The majority of the participants, including the police, Lonmin and the South African Human Rights Commission, agreed to the postponement to give Mpofu, his team and other parties an opportunity to try and reach a settlement about interim funding.
“It’s very important to get funding for the applicants so the commission can continue as expeditiously as possible,” said Bizos.
Though Mpofu will continue to negotiate with parties about interim funding, he said he would go ahead with filing papers at the ConCourt during the course of this week as the interim funding will only be for the time it will take the ConCourt to make a judgment.
Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, for the families of the deceased, said he had received instruction from his clients that they would not be part of the commission until the wounded and arrested miners had received funding.
“We are largely dependent on the arrested and injured parties’ submissions and if they are not represented we don’t see the reason for the commission. Some families have not even come back from their homes saying that until the funding issue has been resolved they will not participate in the commission,” said Ntsebeza.
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