Pretoria - More time is needed before a crucial witness can testify before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, lawyers said on Thursday.
“Mr X is an important witness. He makes quite serious allegations about some of the victims of the massacre,” Dali Mpofu, for the miners wounded and arrested at Marikana in 2012, told the commission in Pretoria.
“I need to do some serious consultation before I am in a position to cross-examine.”
He said he needed to consult about 300 people.
Mpofu was supporting an application by Tebogo Mathibedi, SC, for the police, for the man identified only as Mr X to protect his identity, to testify on June 19 instead of Monday.
Mr X was part of a group of protesting miners who underwent a ritual at Marikana that included the burning of live sheep on the night of August 11, 2012.
The rituals were a preparation for a confrontation with police, according to documents in the SA Police Service application.
He is expected to testify about “the killing and intimidation of Lonmin employees who were unwilling to take part in the violent strike”.
The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the violent wage-related strike at Lonmin's platinum mining operations.
On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly mineworkers, were shot dead by police, allegedly while trying to disarm and disperse them.
Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.
Mathibedi said he needed time to prepare Mr X by going through documents he would be cross-examined on.
“It's important that the consultation should take place prior to the commencement on his evidence,” Mathibedi said.
He said Mr X should testify only when he was ready.
“Mr X is in witness protection. Whenever consultations have to be held with him, security arrangements have to be made,” Mathibedi said.
The police's application was also supported by Dumisa Ntsebeza for the families of the workers killed, Anthony Gotz, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, George Bizos, for the Legal Resources Centre, and SA Human Rights Commission lawyer Kathleen Hardy.
Hardy did not oppose the application as long as expert witness testified from June 23.
Evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson, SC, opposed the application because the commission had to finish its work on July 31.
Chaskalson proposed that Mr X give evidence on Monday, and be cross-examined from Thursday. On Tuesday and Wednesday other witnesses should give evidence so that no days would be lost, he said.
“We are operating on a tight schedule at the moment,” commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, said.
The commission applied for an extension, but Farlam said it would be irresponsible to assume President Jacob Zuma would grant it.
Mathibedi said police could not say how long it would take to lead Mr X's evidence.
Farlam was expected to make a ruling on Friday.