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South Africa’s mine killing investigators

Published on 24/08/2012

South African President Jacob Zuma has named a judicial commission of inquiry that will investigate a wave of violence at the Marikana platinum mine that killed 44 people, most gunned down by police.

Following is a look at the panel that will probe the deadliest police action since apartheid:

Justice Ian Farlam

The retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge will head the commission. He is considered one of the country’s top legal minds, having ruled on some of South Africa’s highest-profile cases, from same-sex marriage to Zuma’s own long-running graft battle before he became president.

Before the transition to democracy, Farlam acted as a lawyer for activists prosecuted or held in pre-independence Namibia, which was governed by apartheid South Africa.

He was appointed in 2000 to the appeals court, South Africa’s highest judicial venue for all matters not related to the constitution, which is under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court.

Among his most important decisions as an appeals judge included ruling on the right to same-sex marriage and that sodomy was not a crime in the Western Cape province.

Those findings were later upheld in the Constitutional Court and led to the first legalisation of gay unions in Africa.

Farlam also ruled in some of Zuma’s myriad legal battles — both in his favour, in a minority judgment on material seized in raids, but also against him, by overturning a High Court judgment that had quashed his graft charges.

He retired in mid-2009 and became a member of Lesotho’s Court of Appeal the following year. Like several of South Africa’s smaller neighbours, Lesotho relies on foreign judges to fill its benches.

Advocate Bantubonke Tokota

Tokota has served as a judge in the Eastern Cape Labour Court and High Court in Gauteng province.

He rose to prominence defending a controversial High Court judge on drunk driving charges. The judge was convicted in 2009, but is now fighting to be reinstated.

Advocate Pingla Hemraj

A respected Durban advocate, Hemraj served as a judge in High Courts in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces.

In 2010 she successfully defended a Zuma bodyguard charged with attempted murder for shooting at the car of an elderly driver who did not make way for the presidential motorcade. The presiding judge found too little evidence to convict him.