Pretoria - Widows of those killed at Marikana in August 2012 staged a walk-out on Friday from the commission that is probing the circumstances that led to their husbands' deaths.
This was in response to chairman of the commission, retired judge Ian Farlam, saying that family of the arrested and injured miners should be admitted to the overflow room, rather than the main auditorium.
Dali Mpofu, for the injured and arrested miners, interrupted cross-examination of police witness Mr X, whose identity is being protected, to draw attention to a “mini crisis outside”.
“There are about 32 people, the majority are my clients and the rest are family of my clients,” Mpofu said.
Farlam said he had previously ruled that only parties to the commission should be allowed in. Other members of the public needed to watch from an overflow room, during Mr X's testimony.
Mpofu said: “The irony is they have been allowed in the hall for the rest of Mr X's testimony. They see it (not being allowed in) as a sinister motive.”
In the main auditorium where the commission sits, Mr X's face is visible on a screen via video link from an undisclosed location. In the overflow room, his face cannot be seen.
Farlam said it had only been discovered on Thursday that people who were not parties had erroneously been allowed into the main auditorium.
“The injured and arrested have a right to be here, others must go to the overflow room.”
Mpofu argued that “these people do not fall into the category of members of the public”.
Farlam responded that the family members were not to be considered as parties. Rather, some members of the public had a greater degree of interest in proceedings than others.
At this point Mr X switched off the camera so the screen where his face appeared went blank.
At this point the widows stood up and walked out of the hall.
Farlam said: “They must take what action they see appropriate.”
A short adjournment was called.
The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's mining operations at Marikana.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250
arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including the two policemen and two security guards, were killed. - Sapa