S. Africa opens probe into deadly mine violence


South Africa opened an inquiry on Monday into the police killing of at least 34 miners during a day of violence in August, hoping to find out how a dispute over pay ended in a bloodbath.
The commission, appointed by President Jacob Zuma, began proceedings at the Rustenburg Civic Center, just a stone’s throw from the mine where police gunned down striking platinum miners on August 16.
Sitting before a jet black back-drop, former Supreme Court of Appeal judge Ian Farlam opened the commission, which began with a roll call of the dead, a minute’s silence and a vow that the truth would be uncovered.
“It is very important that the truth, in so far as what happened over that period should become clear as soon as possible,” said Farlam, indicating the court would first examine the events leading up to August 16.
“We have to balance the need to deal with the matter with expedition, with the need to be thorough.”
The commission has been asked to “investigate matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana”.
The South African government and police, miners and unions and British-headquartered mine owner Lonmin all face tough questions about their conduct during the unrest, which began with miners striking for better pay on August 10.
In the following days and weeks of violence a total of 46 people were killed including two police officers.
But it was graphic footage of events on August 16 that shocked the world, and drew parallels with the brutality seen under white apartheid rule before 1994.
Under the current mandate, the commission has four months to complete its work and a further month to present its final report.
It will also send interim reports to Zuma once a month. The first report, about events leading up to August 16 is due by October 12.
On Monday, the commission convened to appoint representatives for the parties. There was also to be an acknowledgement of relatives of the deceased.
The case is expected to get under way in earnest on Wednesday.