'We will protect you' - Mine inquiry

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry has assured provision of the government's witness protection programme for people due to testify, but who fear for their safety.

"If there is a serious threat to anyone who is a witness, they must approach the commission for protection immediately, the commission's spokesman, advocate Kevin Malunga, has said. "We want to ensure that the commission's work is not compromised."

This comes after National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch leader Dalivuyo Bongo was shot dead at his home in Marikana, North West, on Friday night.

On Tuesday, Bongo was among those who took part in the commision's in loco inspection of the hill where 34 people lost their lives when police opened fire on striking Lonmin mine workers in August.

Malunga said Bongo's death was unfortunate and unexpected.

"There was no sign that three days later he would be killed, we saw that there was no unity among the involved organisations but we cannot say if Bongo's death was linked with rivalry," Malunga said.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka called the attack an "assassination". "This (Bongo's death) comes after another death, of the NUM branch chairperson last weekend and the attack on another branch leader, who escaped but his wife was killed," said Seshoka.

He declined divulging their names, saying their next of kin had not yet been informed.

Seshoka said five NUM members, two of whom were shop stewards, were killed in violence associated with a strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana between August 10 and August 16. Of the 34 people shot dead by police trying to disperse a group of protesters on August 16, 14 were NUM members, he said.

Malunga also revealed at the weekend that the commission was still consulting legal experts following a call for the government to pay legal fees to the families of the civilians who lost their lives following the Lonmin Marikana strike.

Supporting the call, Reverend Mautji Pataki of the South African Council of Churches said the government paying legal fees would be an indication that the commission was committed to "producing justice for all those who were wronged".

On Sunday, Malunga said while understanding the dire situation in which the families of the deceased found themselves, legally the commission cannot commit itself to providing legal assistance to individuals. He pointed out that such a move would put a financial strain on the already cash-strapped commission.

The commission was adjourned last week until October 22.

- This article first appeared in the printed newspaper on October 8