Zuma Wins Backing for Probe Into Lonmin Mine Killings

South African President Jacob Zuma
South African President Jacob Zuma will announce the commission’s remit in the next few days, the presidency said. Photographer: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to appoint a judicial panel to probe the deadliest mine violence since the end of apartheid won backing from business leaders, political parties and analysts.

Forty-four people died in the violence at Lonmin Plc’s Marikana mining complex in the North West Province last week after an illegal strike by 3,000 workers and clashes between rival labor unions. Thirty-four of the fatalities occurred when police opened fire on a group of protesters who refused to disperse from a hilltop where they had been gathering.

“When a nation experiences a tragedy of this magnitude, this is the type of response that is required from strong political leadership, a response that is immediate, empowered and transparent,” Neren Rau, chief executive officer of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Zuma will announce the commission’s remit in the next few days, the presidency said. The ruling African National Congress and the opposition Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party all issued statements welcoming the probe.

The commission should investigate the events leading up to the shootings, the conduct of Lonmin, the labor unions, the police and the government, and whether the authorities took reasonable action, said Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law professor at the University of Cape Town.

Public Perception

The commission “should ideally be chaired by a retired justice of the Constitutional Court or, if that is not possible, by a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal,” he said by phone today. The commission head needs not only be impartial and independent, but “also perceived by reasonable people to be impartial and independent.”

Henk Botha, a public law professor at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, said the commission should investigate whether the police acted in self defense and why so many people were killed.

“The commission should reflect on the police’s training with regards to handling mass protest action,” he said by phone today. “The commission should also determine whether this was a once-off and unique incident.”

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