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Johannesburg - Legal Aid SA is seeking legal advice about a court ruling that it pay the costs of the miners wounded and arrested at Marikana to have counsel represent them at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.
Legal Aid SA CEO Vidhu Vedalankar said on Tuesday the organisation would pay the costs, as ordered by the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday, but that funding commissions of inquiry was beyond its mandate and budget.
“It should be understood that Legal Aid SA's brief is to provide legal aid assistance to the indigent and vulnerable as contemplated in the Legal Aid Act and in the Constitution,” Vedalankar said.
Increasing the scope of assistance meant the organisation would have to reduce its help to the poor and vulnerable.
“This decision will affect the sustainability of the organisation in providing access to justice in criminal and civil legal aid matters for the poor and vulnerable, unless special funding is forthcoming,” Vedalankar said.
The organisation's annual budget allocation had been spent, with no allowance for anything outside its mandate.
The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) urged Legal Aid SA to respect and adhere to the court's judgment.
“There is little to be gained from further legal wrangling over funding; indeed any appeal will only serve to further deepen the wounds of these injured workers,” Casac said.
On Monday, the court ruled that Legal Aid pay the expenses incurred by those who survived the Marikana shooting last year to have counsel represent them at the inquiry.
The application was brought by Dali Mpofu, who represents the miners wounded and arrested at Marikana. The miners have not been represented at the commission recently because of a lack of funding.
The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related unrest at Lonmin platinum's operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West last year.
The police shot dead 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, wounded 70, and arrested 250 on August 16, 2012. In the preceding week, 10 people died, including two policemen and two security guards.