2 minute read
11 Nov 2014
11:02 am

How much is the right to life? – Marikana lawyer

In sending their employees to deal with around 3000 striking miners, Lonmin weighed up the cost of the August 2012 platinum strike against the lives of their employees, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

FILE PICTURE: Commissioner Ian Farlam at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry on December 18, 2012, in Rustenburg, South Africa. The commission is investigating what led to the deaths of 46 people during an illegal wage strike by Lonmin mine workers. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe) .

“In a commercial setting, how much is a risk to the right to life?” asked Tshepiso Ramphele, for the families of two Lonmin security officers and a non-striking miner killed by strikers.

“If one looks at the damages one has to pay in… because we [Lonmin] are going to lose R2 billion, we have a very reasonable consideration that says we can forgo R200,000 and we can forgo a number of R200,000s otherwise we lose R2b.”

The R200,000 represented the compensation Lonmin would pay to employees and their families incapacitated or killed on the job, Ramphele said.

“It cannot be a consideration that is justified to risk the right to life,” he said.

“Even with the propositions that have been put forward, Lonmin would still not be justified to risk the right to life, and I mean the most recently we’ve had the most, of what one can call a world calamity, in the form of Ebola, and we know how it’s resolved, we quarantine it.”

If 3000 striking miners posed a danger the problem should have been contained. However, Frans Mabelane, one of the security officers killed, had received only three months training, encompassing 19 different courses including crowd management.

This was wholly inadequate for the situation at hand, beyond security officers being outnumbered.

“I think the issue of taking the right to life against containing the right to life was not considered,” Ramphele said.

“The test is when you send the employee out, did you take reasonable steps? Did they [Lonmin] actually take reasonable care to make sure Mabelane’s life was not in danger?”

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations in Marikana, North West, in the strike-related unrest in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.

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 police officers and the two Lonmin security officers, were killed.