President fights Marikana lawsuit
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.