Pres­i­dent fights Marikana law­suit

CityPress - - News - ATHANDIWE SABA and POLOKO TAU athandiwe.saba@city­press.co.za; poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

The pres­i­dency says it has not back­tracked on its prom­ise to find an al­ter­na­tive way to deal with the civil claims lodged against it by wounded and ar­rested mine work­ers at Marikana. This week it filed re­spond­ing pa­pers in the case. The group of af­fected mine work­ers filed their claim in Au­gust against the pres­i­dent, the min­is­ter of po­lice and the na­tional di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions.

In Septem­ber, the pres­i­dency is­sued a state­ment an­nounc­ing it would dis­cuss the mat­ter with all the claimants’ lawyers – in­clud­ing the fam­i­lies of the 34 men who died in the mas­sacre – to re­solve the claims through me­di­a­tion. But since then, the three de­fen­dants have not been in con­tact with any of the le­gal teams, City Press has es­tab­lished.

In­stead, this week – three months af­ter the civil claims were filed – the state filed its re­spond­ing pa­pers.

Pres­i­dency spokesper­son Bon­gani Ma­jola said he would not con­tra­dict the Septem­ber state­ment made and would not com­ment on a process that was be­fore the courts.

The pres­i­dency, the first de­fen­dant in the suit, says in court pa­pers that it will fight the claim on the ba­sis that it has no grounds.

“They [the claims] do not dis­close a cause of ac­tion and are al­ter­na­tively vague and em­bar­rass­ing,” the pres­i­dency said in its pa­pers.

The pa­pers also state that be­cause of the vague­ness of the claims, they would be prej­u­diced if re­quired to plead to them.

The wounded and ar­rested mine work­ers state in their claim that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma failed to pro­tect their Con­sti­tu­tional rights be­cause he failed to act “when he was briefed about the sit­u­a­tion in Marikana”.

“He took into ac­count sec­tional and party po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions and in­ter­ests.”

They also claim Zuma per­mit­ted the de­ploy­ment of the SA Na­tional De­fence Force in co­op­er­a­tion with the SA Po­lice Ser­vice, which led to the mas­sacre. But the pres­i­dency de­nies this. “The join­der of the first de­fen­dant is vex­a­tious and li­able to be struck out on this ba­sis,” read the pa­pers.

The Marikana mine work­ers’ lawyer An­dries Nkome said his clients found it quite bizarre that the pres­i­dent would file pa­pers in op­po­si­tion to theirs af­ter he had is­sued the press state­ment say­ing he wanted the mat­ter re­solved ex­pe­di­ently.

“How can the pres­i­dency say the claims are vague, em­bar­rass­ing and vex­a­tious, and in the same breath say he wants to set­tle the claims am­i­ca­bly?” asked Nkome.

He added that his clients re­mained un­fazed, be­cause they be­lieved in the mer­its of their claim.

“If the trial runs its course, they would still emerge vic­to­ri­ous, ex­cept for the fact that the costs would have bal­looned for the state,” he said.

The sec­ond re­spon­dent, the min­is­ter of po­lice, says in its re­spond­ing pa­pers that the onus was on the mine work­ers to prove their claims.

The po­lice deny that they shot at the wounded and ar­rested mine work­ers un­law­fully. The work­ers were part of an “un­law­ful gath­er­ing, in pos­ses­sion of sharp and dan­ger­ous weapons, un­der­went rit­u­als be­liev­ing those to make them in­vin­ci­ble or in­vis­i­ble and had re­sisted ar­rest”, its pa­pers read.

The third re­spon­dent, the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity (NPA), claimed that it was not given proper le­gal no­tice that the work­ers would be in­sti­tut­ing civil claims.

It also claimed that Marikana in North West, where the mine work­ers were un­law­fully ar­rested and de­tained, was not in its ju­ris­dic­tion. The NPA asked the court to dis­miss the claim with costs.

Eigh­teen of the wounded and ar­rested mine work­ers ap­peared in the North West High Court. Their lawyers were handed a 1 500-page po­lice docket, which, for the first time, de­tailed the charges against them. They are linked to at least six bru­tal killings, in­clud­ing that of se­cu­rity of­fi­cer Has­san Fundi.

“Now that we have the docket, we will be able to study it, con­sult with our clients and ver­ify some of the con­tents be­fore mak­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the na­tional di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions, ask­ing them to with­draw charges against these men,” Nkome told City Press.

“We will say to them these charges can’t be placed on these peo­ple. Those charges are re­lated to mat­ters dealt with dur­ing the Far­lam com­mis­sion of in­quiry. But now, why only haul these min­ers be­fore court and not the po­lice who killed other min­ers?”

In the in­dict­ment, which City Press has seen, the 18 mine work­ers face 14 counts, in­clud­ing six of mur­der, rob­bery, un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of firearms and am­mu­ni­tion, as well as dam­age to prop­erty.

Mean­while, the charges against po­lice of­fi­cers that were to be in­ves­ti­gated by the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate have not been laid.

Direc­torate spokesper­son Grace Langa did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment made on Fri­day.

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