Miners’ lawyer blasts police, state
Ga-Rankuwa, North West -
Police measures to disperse a crowd which had gathered on a hilltop near Lonmin’s Marikana mine were “unreasonable”, the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate’s Court heard on Wednesday.
Leading evidence requesting the court to consider the bail hearing of the group of men in detention as an urgent matter, defence lawyer Lesego Mmusi said police could have implemented other measures and avoided a violent clash.
“It is undisputed that the group had been gathering on that hill every day and dispersing every night. Why didn’t the police cordon off the hill at night and in the morning the people would find the place secured,” asked Mmusi.
“They (police) didn’t apply the reasonable means in this matter. The State did not do its duty and has failed citizens. Even the community there (in Marikana) has been inconvenienced by the police’s actions,” he told the court.
Mmusi lambasted the State for the current arrangement, whereby only a small group of the people detained appear in court. These men would inform their colleagues of what transpired in court.
“Suppose this matter goes all the way to the Constitutional Court, we will be asked ‘how were you representing people who were not in court?’ What if one of our clients, say number 29, wants to raise his hand and make a contribution?” asked Mmusi.
Prosecutor Nigel Carpenter told the court on Monday that arrangements had been made that only three people would be picked per police station to attend the court session. The Ga-Rankuwa court did not have the capacity to contain all the accused – now 270 – in a single session. The men arrested following the violence are being held at different police stations.
The defence said that arrangement was an infringement of the detained men’s right to a fair trial.
“How is it a fair trial when your bail application is being heard in court and you are not there?”
The number of detained men had increased from the previous 260 because some of the men were being released from hospital and taken into custody.
Mmusi said two of the detained men had gunshot wounds and were not getting treatment whilst in custody. He said all the men should be released as some were in dire need to get access to vital medication for illnesses including tuberculosis and HIV.
Regarding evidence submitted by head of the Potchefstroom detectives, Brigadier Jacobus van Zyl, who is leading the investigation team, the defence said the police were not doing their job.
“He was given seven days (on August 20) and he had done nothing. What assurance do we have that he will deliver this time? On one of the days, he even attended the memorial service for the deceased people, we don’t know what his business was,” said advocate Simon Hlahla, for the group of men.
“He (Van Zyl) got his bite at the cherry and he let it rot. Now he wants to get a fresh cherry. What assurance do we have that he will deliver?” Van Zyl was called in as the first State witness on Monday. He supported the State's application for the bail hearing to be postponed for a further seven days.
Only a few men from the group were in court because the room was not big enough to accommodate all of them. Those who appeared would have to convey what happened to the others.
They were arrested last Thursday after police opened fire on protesters near Lonmin's Marikana mine, North West, killing 34 and wounding 78. - Sapa