Fiery day at Marikana inquiry
The Marikana Commission of Inquiry got off to a heated start today with fiery exchanges between lawyers and chairperson of the inquiry retired Judge Ian Farlam.
Farlam expressed irritation at Advocate Dali Mpofu’s long-winded way of putting questions to National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana.
Zokwana is being cross-examined by Mpofu, who represents more than 200 mine workers who were injured and arrested when police opened fire and killed 34 protesters in Marikana on August 16 last year.
Mpofu was putting questions to Zokwana in relation to email exchanges between Cyril Ramaphosa and Lonmin executives, in which they were discussing efforts to influence government ministers to bring in police to deal with the violent strike by rock-drill operators.
Ramaphosa, now ANC deputy president, was then a member of the ANC’s national executive committee and Lonmin shareholder. Zokwana was mentioned in one of the emails.
“Mr Mpofu, there’s no need to make a speech before you ask your question. Just ask the question, please!” Farlam fired.
Mpofu argued that he was trying to create context for the benefit of the witness, Zokwana. But Farlam didn’t buy it.
“Mr Mpofu, this is a waste of time. This commission costs a lot of money every day,” Farlam said.
Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger also lost it when Mpofu asked Zokwana if he agreed that the army kills.
Burger objected, saying the “flippen question was a waste of time”.
This prompted a further exchange between Mpofu and Farlam.
When the cross-examination eventually got under way, Zokwana said that police presence was required during the strike “to prevent the discovery of another body”.
He said the army and police did not have to be present when parties involved in a labour dispute were negotiating. However, he said police needed to be called in during the Lonmin strike because people had been killed and they needed to protect the lives of others.
Mpofu questioned why Ramaphosa and Lonmin executives had called for the police and army to be called in on August 15 when they had said in an email that the situation the night before and that morning was relatively peaceful.
He also questioned whether it was normal for company executives to communicate directly with Cabinet ministers when facing a labour dispute.
The hearing continues.