Lawyers representing nearly 330 victims of the Marikana massacre want the hearing of their almost R1 billion damages claim against President Cyril Ramaphosa, Sibanye Stillwater, and the government to be expedited.
Their call follows the decision by Judge Colin Lamont, who was initially going to preside over the matter, to recuse himself on Tuesday.
In his seven-page ruling, Judge Lamont maintained that he believes he is impartial and does not believe he would have acted in a biased way against the 329 plaintiffs, who include current and former Lonmin mineworkers injured and arrested during and after the August 2012 massacre.
”I further believe that I could not be manipulated or given direction by anyone in relation to my conduct in the hearing,” the judge insisted.
However, Judge Lamont added that he accepted that from the plaintiffs’ perspective, he was seen as a person who might not act impartially.
”The test is not whether I am biased but whether I am seen to be biased. As the plaintiffs, on reasonable grounds, see me as a person who might not be impartial, I am bound to recuse myself,” he conceded.
Two days before Judge Lamont was due to hear the matter, lawyers representing the mineworkers were informed by Judge Lamont’s registrar, Yasmeen Jooma, that had shareholding worth approximately R225 000 in Sibanye Stillwater, which bought Lonmin a few years ago.
The mineworkers’ legal representative Andries Nkome complained about the timing of the disclosure of Judge Lamont’s shareholding, approximately 48 hours before the hearing, which was last Friday.
”Our clients are very unhappy, more so after learning that the judge knew on August 10 who the parties were, but he chose to only inform us 48 hours before the hearing that he has shares,” Nkome said.
He said what was even worse was that before the recusal application was brought, Judge Lamont told them he had sold the shares.
According to Nkome, there has not been any indication of when the matter will be back in court but that his clients hope for an early date.
In his judgment, Judge Lamont said it is an easy leap for the plaintiffs to identify a shareholder as being partisan and in the camp of the first and second respondents (Ramaphosa and Sibanye Stillwater).
”Once that leap is made, it is reasonably understandable that the plaintiffs would fear manipulation of the shareholder, whether he be a past or present shareholder,” the judge explained.
Ramaphosa previously held shares in Lonmin through Incwala Resources, which was controlled by his Shanduka Group.
The mineworkers accuse Ramaphosa of actively inciting violence, exerting pressure and characterising their strike as unlawful, which led to the use of force by police with fatal consequences when he sent an e-mail demanding “concomitant action” against them.
Ramaphosa is also blamed for putting pressure on politicians who controlled the means of violence, such as the army and the police, so that “concomitant action” could be politically sanctioned.
”The first defendant (Ramaphosa) had sought to exert pressure on politicians and ministers of state to take violent action,” the mineworkers state in their particulars of claim.
Ramaphosa is sued in his personal capacity and as a director of Lonmin at the time of the massacre.