City academic assists at Marikana Massacre inquiry
Nikki Walsh, Solicitor and Senior Lecturer at The City Law School, has visited the Marikana Commission of Inquiry to work alongside lawyers investigating the deaths of 44 people in South Africa's platinum mining belt. Thirty-four of those who died in August 2012 were striking miners who were killed by police officers.
The incident, known as the Marikana massacre, is the single most use of lethal force by South African police against civilians in the post-apartheid era. The South African Police Service (SAPS) says its officers shot in self-defence but the legal teams for the dead and injured say it was pre-planned, state-sanctioned murder to protect corporate interests.
The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was appointed by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma to investigate matters of concern arising out of the incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana. The Inquiry is looking into the 44 deaths, 70 people left injured and approximately 250 people being arrested during the incident in August 2012.
Nikki, who teaches on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at City, spent a month with lawyers who are representing the families of the deceased and injured:
"The implications of what was allowed to happen at Marikana are immense. Inevitably, it speaks to what this means for modern South Africa and its democracy. But, it raises far bigger questions about the relationship between a democratically elected government, the police and big business".
The legal team is led by the Socio-Economic Rights Organization (SERI) and London solicitor, James Nichol, who has worked on miscarriages of justice such as the Bridgewater Four and the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Nikki says, as a British lawyer, it was a huge privilege to see some of South Africa's leading lawyers in action:
"On the one hand, you have Mandela's former attorney, George Bizos, who at the age of 85 is a piece of the nation's legal history, and on the other, there are young lawyers from SERI and SAHRC (South African Human Rights Commission) who are taking forward the profession on the behalf of the next generation. It is fantastic to see the old and the new, side by side, albeit in such tragic circumstances".
The Commission, headed by retired Judge Ian Farlam, commenced in October 2012 and was due to end on 31st July 2014, however, an extension until 30th September was recently granted. There is no fixed date for the publication of its report. The Inquiry can be followed on the Commission's website.