Hundreds of demonstrators have marched on South African government buildings in Pretoria to protest at a lack of state funding for survivors of shootings at the Marikana mine, where 44 people died last year.
The demonstrators, including members of victims’ families and opposition parties, marched on Thursday because they want the government to pay legal fees for about 270 injured or arrested miners appearing at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
The body was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the police killing of 34 striking miners on August 16, 2012, at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.
In the run-up to these deaths, at least 10 other people, including two police officers, were killed.
The mine workers are facing a “David and Goliath battle” against the state, the police force and Lonmin, according to Trevor Ngwane, a 53-year-old spokesperson for the Marikana Support Campaign.
“It’s very important to show the general public we are unhappy with the government,” Ngwane said, speaking from Pretoria.
“It’s a tragedy, a shame, and a disgrace really,” he said.
“It’s totally demoralising that the government of liberation could do something to the people like this.”
Last August, Jeff Redabe, the justice minister, said funding the legal team for the mine workers was unnecessary.
The approximately 270 injured or arrested miners and their lawyer, Dali Mpofu, withdrew from the commission in protest, and submitted an application to postpone the proceedings.
Last Monday, the commission’s chairman, retired Judge Ian Farlam, ruled the hearings will continue, arguing that the absence of the miners will not prejudice the proceedings.
Erik de Ridder, a 24-year-old spokesman for Citizens for Marikana, said inequality in the commission continues to hurt the cash-strapped workers, who also must pay for the two-hour journey from Rustenburg, where they live, to the commission in Pretoria.
“The way it’s been operated has been detrimental to the community,” he said.
“Because of this issue’s massive importance – socially, economically, politically – it definitely needs to come to a conclusion, so that the country can move on,” Ridder said.