“When it comes to making your findings, you [Farlam Commission of Inquiry chairman Ian Farlam] and your commissioners need to think back to that night when you switched on the television and saw the Reuters footage we now know so well,” evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson said.
He was referring to news footage of police shooting at striking miners at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, on August 16, 2012.
It was important to remember that sense of “horror” because it reflected “the reality of the situation”, he said.
The two years of work in the inquiry into the deaths of 44 people, most of them striking miners, had necessarily had a numbing effect, which was part of coping with the evidence before the commission.
He argued that the police case “normalised” the SA Police Service’s actions.
“Looking day-in and day-out at pictures of bodies shot to pieces by assault rifles dulls our outrage at what is, and should be, unacceptable in a constitutional democracy.”
Chaskalson slowly recited the names of those killed at Marikana.
“Remember every victim who died at Marikana… as an individual human being with a family and a life.”
If the commissioners could not rediscover their feelings when the events were still fresh and raw, then their report could be compromised, as it would not reflect the public’s horror at the killings, Chaskalson warned.
The evidence leaders were giving their final arguments in the inquiry, and were given 90 minutes each to highlight aspects from their heads of argument.
At the end of last month, President Jacob Zuma granted the commission its final extension. Public hearings have to be completed by next Friday.
After the oral arguments, the commission will write its report until March 30, 2015, and then the findings will be handed to Zuma.
The commission has been investigating the deaths of 44 people during labour unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana in August 2012.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with the police on August 16.
More than 70 people were wounded and more than 200 were arrested. The police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.
The inquiry held its initial public hearings in October 2012.