Government should pay the legal fees of the miners injured or arrested in the Marikana shooting, the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) said on Friday.
“We are of the firm, unwavering belief that in order to guard against either perceived or real travesty of justice and in order to promote parity of arms, there is a positive duty on the State to fund both the victims and their lawyers at the Commission,” BLA's Pritzman Busani Mabunda said in a statement.
“It can't be countenanced in a constitutional democracy that funding is construed to be selective at the expense of the poor and downtrodden.”
Legal Aid SA had said earlier in the week it would not help the miners who were injured or arrested during the shooting in Marikana.
It would however continue to provide support to the families of the 34 miners killed on August 16, but not to the 78 people who were wounded, or the 275 who were arrested.
Given that the police and other government representatives making submissions to the commission were being represented by teams of eminent legal experts at the expense of the taxpayer, Mabunda said fairness dictated the same benefits should apply to the miners and their families.
“There is no good or sound reason why the police...should enjoy upper class representation at the expense of the taxpayer while the same rights are not accorded to the poor victims in the Commission,” he said.
“We implore on the government to take a lead and employ positive measures to ensure there is justice to the victims and not create an impression of apparent justice to the perpetrators.”
While the policy on provision of legal aid, contained in the Legal Aid Guide, did not make provision for Legal Aid SA to make available legal representation at commissions of inquiry, Mabunda said it was no excuse for government not to assist.
“The legislative impediment constraining the government from making provision of both legal and logistical support...should not serve as a defence for not doing so,” he said.
“This is so bearing in mind that the situation in Marikana is of its own kind. It was never anticipated that the nation would find itself in this kind of commission of inquiry as it has manifested itself.” - Sapa