Since the Marikana massacre occurred over three years ago, justice for the victims has been on hold. The commission of inquiry was repeatedly delayed. No charges were laid, except against the miners. The key recommendations in the Marikana report are to investigate matters further. Now, even the civil compensation claims have been delayed. But the victims hope this delay could lead to a modicum of justice. By GREG NICOLSON.
The state attorney acting on behalf of Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko has requested an extension to respond to civil claims from both the relatives of 36 mineworkers killed in Marikana and 275 injured and arrested mineworkers. While Nhleko decides whether to oppose their applications for financial compensation, the extension could suggest the state is seriously considering a settlement offer to avoid a long court battle.
Lawyer for the injured and arrested mineworkers Andries Nkome said he received a letter from the state attorney last week requesting an extension to file Nhleko’s opposition to the civil claims. Nkome said the state has until 17 September to file its opposition. “It would bode well for everyone for the matter to be settled out of court because at the same time it would show our clients that the ministry has not put up a fight and they are showing some sort of remorse,” Nkome said on Monday.
The police minister was asked in Parliament recently whether the victims of Marikana would be compensated. Nhleko said he was in discussions on how to proceed with the South African Police Service legal team. While the state has been tight-lipped on what it will do, the police minister has consistently said the pain Marikana has caused should come to an end.
In their court papers, the 275 injured and arrested mineworkers name President Jacob Zuma and Nhleko and seek damages of R3-million each. That includes damages for each applicant of R1.5-million for assault and police brutality, R1-million for unlawful detention and arrest, and R500,000 for malicious prosecution. Nkome said his clients have continually been calling him for updates and want to avoid spending years in court. “What we have always said is we need to look into (a settlement) because at the end of the day the bill to the taxpayer is going to be much higher,” said Nkome.
Together with the Legal Resources Centre and the Wits Law Clinic, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) represents the families of 36 mineworkers killed in Marikana, including 326 dependants. Last month they filed civil claims against the police minister for the loss of the financial support of the deceased to their families, grief and emotional shock, the medical expenses of psychological and psychiatric treatment, the loss of family life and parental care. The lawyers for the relatives have not disclosed the amount of compensation they are seeking.
SERI attorney Nomzamo Zondo said on Monday that the state attorney asked for a one-month extension to respond to their claim. They are waiting for 9 October to see what the minister will do. On the chances of a settlement being reached, Zondo said: “We don’t know, honestly. We’re optimistic.” She added: “They haven’t given any indication either way.” SERI consulted its clients and they gave the go ahead to allow for the extension.
Asked whether the police minister would oppose the claims and the possibility of a settlement, Nhleko’s spokesperson Musa Zondi was brief. “The Marikana issue should be treated with sensitivity. There are a number of discussions being undertaken and we would rather not talk about those as yet. Suffice to say that government will prefer a non-adversarial route and (to) minimise further pain,” he said.
Zondi told the SABC: “The best situation would be if it was possible to have a conversation and finalise these things instead of having long, drawn-out court battles.”
The families would likely agree. SERI’s Grace Gomba worked with the relatives of the mineworkers killed in Marikana for much of the commission and continues to work with them while they bring civil claims against the state. “Basically they want this over and done with. They don’t want the whole court process. They don’t want to talk about Marikana any more. They just want justice,” she said on Monday.
It’s been three years since the massacre and the families had to relive the deaths of their loved ones for two years in the Marikana commission. They have lost hope in the prospect of bringing those responsible for the deaths of their husbands, fathers and sons to account, Gomba said. The Marikana report failed to recommend any specific charges against police. It only suggested more investigations. The commission did not make a finding on the issue of compensation.
“The general feeling is: rather he settles and just let us move on,” Gomba said, after describing the pain the families continue to live with. DM