JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Hundreds of demonstrators marched on South African government buildings Thursday to protest at a lack of state funding for survivors of shootings at the Marikana mine, where 44 people died.
The demonstrators -- who included members of victims' families and opposition parties -- want the government to pay legal fees for some 270 injured or arrested miners appearing at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
The body was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the police killing of 34 striking miners on August 16 last last year at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.
In the run-up to these deaths, at least 10 other people -- including two police officers -- were killed during a highly charged work stoppage.
The mineworkers are facing a "David and Goliath battle" against the state, the police force and Lonmin, said Trevor Ngwane, a 53-year-old spokesperson for the Marikana Support Campaign.
"It's very important to show the general public we are unhappy with the government," Ngwane said, speaking from Pretoria.
"It's a tragedy, a shame, and a disgrace really," he said. "It's totally demoralizing that the government of liberation could do something to the people like this."
Last August, Justice Minister Jeff Redabe said funding the legal team for the mine workers was unnecessary.
The approximately 270 injured or arrested miners and their lawyer, Dali Mpofu, withdrew from the commission in protest, and submitted an application to postpone the proceedings.
Last Monday, the commission's chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, ruled the hearings will continue, arguing that the absence of the miners will not prejudice the proceedings.
"If the government was to show sympathy it would have gained some moral high ground," said Brutus Malada, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Politics and Research, a Pretoria-based political think tank.
"Legally the government may be right, but morally the government is not gaining out of it," he said.
"We are a few months to elections to 2014, and I think many South Africans will be thinking about Marikana when they go to the polls next year," said Malada.
"The memories will still be fresh about what the government did, and I think the ANC (ruling African National Congress) stands to lose out."
Erik de Ridder, a 24-year-old spokesman for Citizens for Marikana, said inequality in the commission continues to hurt the cash-strapped workers, who also must pay for the two-hour journey from Rustenburg, where they live, to the commission in Pretoria.
"The way it's been operated has been detrimental to the community," he said.
"Because of this issue's massive importance - socially, economically, politically - it definitely needs to come to a conclusion, so that the country can move on," said Ridder.