Marikana report: Despite the release promise, pressure on Zuma persists
- Greg Nicolson
- South Africa
- 27 May 2015 11:46 (South Africa)
President Jacob Zuma has said the report from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry will be released by the end of June, while calls for it to be made available to the public this week continue to increase. Concerned groups still plan to go to court and have even requested the report from the Marikana Commission chairperson, saying he could have released it all this time. By GREG NICOLSON.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Zuma reminded opposition parties that his government instituted the Marikana inquiry and allowed it multiple extensions to complete its work. “They've completed the report and they've submitted the report to the president. Now, like all other reports, the president has to look at the report and apply his mind, look at the advice by those who are professional, who understand the law, who must therefore help particularly when it comes to the recommendations. And this is what the president is busy doing,” said Zuma, to jeers from the opposition.
“The issue of 'give the report, give the report' as a slogan is being done as if we don't care about this matter, as if this very Commission was not appointed by us and there is no report that is not going to be given. But we cannot just give the report for the sake of it without any clear instructions or direction what must be done on the recommendations,” he added. And anyway, said Zuma, the parties wanting the report can't do anything with it; they will use it just for information.
Despite Zuma's announcement this week that the Marikana Commission's report would be released by the end of June, there has been an increase in demands from groups representing victims for it to be released in the next few days. On Wednesday, Zuma reduced calls from the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to a “poverty of politics”, which he defined as obsessing over certain issues like Marikana and Nkandla rather than engaging in constructive debate, but he didn't speak to the concerns of the relatives of those who were massacred in August 2012.
On Wednesday, lawyers for the relatives of 37 mineworkers killed in Marikana between 13 and 16 August 2012 announced they have requested the report be released in the first days of June. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) wrote to the president on Tuesday, expressing concern over the delay in releasing the report, despite the clear public interest.
On the promise to release the Marikana report by the end of June, SERI and the LRC said in a joint statement, “This has not been communicated to our clients, and a letter sent on their behalf on 31 March has received no response. The families consider the more than seven weeks since the report was handed to the President reasonable time to consider it, and have requested that the President release the report by 1 June 2015.”
SERI and the LRC have also written to Marikana Commission of Inquiry chairperson, retired Judge Ian Farlam, requesting he release the report, should Zuma fail to do so by 1 June. While there are no strict laws requiring the president to make a Commission of Inquiry report public, the lawyers pointed to the procedural regulations that established the Commission, suggesting there is nothing stopping Farlam and the two other Commissioners from releasing the report.
Regulation 15 reads, “No person shall, except in so far as shall be necessary in the execution of the terms of reference of the Commission, publish or furnish any other person with the report or any interim report of the Commission or a copy or a part thereof or information regarding the consideration of evidence by the Commission for publication before the expiration of a period of 14 days after it has been submitted to the president: provided that the President may authorise publication of any such report before the expiration of that period.”
SERI and LRC suggest that14 days after the report was submitted to Zuma, the Commission could have released it. “Our clients are aware that the Commission has had the power to release the report to the public for more than five weeks. They accept that this has not occurred in order to allow the president a reasonable period of time to consider the report and prepare a response. However, they believe this period has now expired and that there is no legitimate reason to delay publication any further. The families request that Judge Farlam make an undertaking that, should the president not release the report by 1 June, he will release it on 2 June, or provide reasons for refusing to do so,” said SERI and LRC.
One of the reasons for their request is that victims and relatives of the deceased need to lodge civil claims against the state by 16 August 2015, within three years of the massacre, before the window for claims expires.
It's also a concern for the 300 injured and arrested mineworkers who, along with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), plan to take the presidency to court to release the report. On Friday, attorney for the union and mineworkers Andries Nkome wrote to Zuma requesting the release of the report by the end of the month. Failing a response, the group planned to go to court but delayed their application while consulting with others interested in joining the legal action.
On Wednesday night, there was still no clear date as to when they would head to court, but Nkome said, “The majority of our clients say Judge Farlam took three months to review the evidence and draft the report. The president cannot be fair, reasonable and justified to require the same amount of time to read it. Advocate Dali Mpofu SC is done drafting the papers, either way, so it's just a matter of tightening loose ends then we are good to go.”
On Tuesday, the United Front said it supported efforts to have the report released. It has joined the Marikana Support Campaign, Right2Know and South African History Archive in submitting a Promotion of Access to Information Act request and says it supports AMCU and the mineworkers's planned court action. “The delay in the release of the Marikana report is unacceptable. This delay is likely to affect accountability from those responsible for the Marikana massacre. We demand the immediate release of the Marikana report without further delay,” said the United Front.
On Wednesday, community advocacy organisation amandla.mobi launched an online petition to have the report released. “Much of our work comes down to this moment,” said the group, citing past petitions relating to Marikana, “That the truth of Marikana is told.”
Perhaps the most scathing call for the report's release came from Economic Freedom Fighters spokesperson and MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, who on Tuesday in Parliament linked Zuma's comment that Apartheid left South Africa with a sick society to the issue of Marikana. “The whole country wants to know how Mgcineni 'Mambush' Noki ended up with 14 bullets in his head for demanding a living wage of R12,500 after your sick government sent emails to mining bosses for 'concomitant action' against the miners. We want to know how Thobile Mpumza, Mafolise Mabiya, Michael Ngweyi, Cebisile Yawa and many others died. If you're looking for a cure, release the Marikana report. Give us a date and time. There is a date as to when they were killed. There is a time of their death. The most honourable thing to do is not to come here and talk about some next month that nobody knows its name. Give us a date and time. In that report is a cure, because your friends in the presidency, we will ensure they're going to jail.”
Meanwhile, the ANC remains behind its president. A statement from the party's caucus welcomed Zuma's announcement to release the report by the end of June. “The ANC in Parliament appreciates and shares the anxiety of the families and others affected by the tragic events at Marikana regarding the public release of the report. However, it would be inappropriate and a dereliction of duty on the part of the president to unduly act hastily in his consideration of the report,” said the party. DM
Photo: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (L) talks with one of the injured miners during a courtesy visit in a hospital outside Marikana, August 17, 2012. REUTERS/Kopano Tlape/Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS)/Handout