Probe into killing of S.Africa mineworkers ends

14th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Family members of 34 South African miners killed at Marikana said they hoped the truth behind the shooting would be revealed as a two-year probe ended Friday.

The findings will not be released until next year, but evidence put before the inquiry badly tarnished the police claim that they acted in self-defence when they gunned down the striking Lomin miners in August 2012.

"It's been a long journey, but we are very thankful for these two years," said Nosihle Ngweyi, whose husband Michael was killed after being shot twice by police.

"We hope the truth will eventually come out.

"The August 16 shooting was the worst violence witnessed in South Africa since the advent of democracy in 1994.

In the days before, 10 others were killed by some of the strikers, including non-striking miners, security guards, and two police officers who were hacked to death.

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry was established by president Jacob Zuma to investigate the events at Marikana.

It has the power to recommend certain individuals be investigated and criminally charged.

Family members of all the victims gathered Friday for an emotional prayer service after the commission adjourned for the final time.

Holding hands, they each spoke the names of their lost relatives, while Pretoria bishop Jo Seoka prayed for the families of the those killed by the strikers to "let their burden go and try to forgive".

In the last week of the commission, the police argued the strikers had acted treacherously by bearing arms against the state.

"The South Africa we do not want is one where public dissent is expressed by groups of people bearing weapons and bent on conflict and mayhem," said police lawyer Ishmael Semenya.

"We don't want a South Africa where industrial negotiations that can be resolved through dialogue are left to fester until police intervention is inevitable.

"- Death sentence -But lawyers representing the survivors of the massacre lambasted this attitude, saying the police killed the miners in revenge for the deaths of their two colleagues days earlier.

"The police decided that because their colleagues were killed, to sentence these people to death," said lawyer Dali Mpofu.

The police were also accused of a widespread cover-up and "a deliberate attempt to mislead" the investigation.

Mining house Lonmin was widely criticised during the inquiry for failing to engage with the workers' wage demands.

It has also been blamed for the murders of its security guards and non-striking miners.

"There was a cold and deliberate decision taken by Lonmin to instruct people to come to work even though their lives may be in danger, because of financial concerns," said commission lawyer Geoff Budlender.

The mining house has denied any responsibility.

Its lawyers said criticism of the company's handling of the labour dispute "would essentially mount to criticism of Lonmin for having acted within the legal framework".

A number of the legal teams involved in the inquiry have recommended that senior police officials -- including the former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and national police commissioner Riah Phiyega -- be investigated on charges on murder.

They have also argued that Lonmin executives should be charged as accomplices to murder.

But some fingered South Africa's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as the main culprit.

Ramaphosa contacted the ministers of police and mineral resources in the days leading up to the massacre, pushing for police intervention in a strike that had already turned deadly.

Ramaphosa was not in government at the time, but a non-executive director of Lonmin and a senior leader in the ruling ANC party.

This "political interference" was the catalyst for the shooting, said Mpofu.

"If you are not going to charge Mr Ramaphosa, don't charge anybody," Mpofu told the inquiry Wednesday.

"You cannot have a situation where the source of the political pressure, the person who ignited the whole chain which resulted in the massacre, is not charged.

"Ramaphosa has maintained he was simply trying to prevent further violence.

The commission has until the end of March next year to present a report to the president.

© 2014 AFP

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