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Seoka in the hot seat at inquiry

Lonmin's lawyer Schalk Burger accused the bishop of being impartial.

The South African Council of Churches Bishop Jo Seoka. Picture: Taurai Maduna/Eyewitness News.

RUSTENBURG - Bishop Jo Seoka came under fire on Thursday at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, with legal teams criticising his role as a peacemaker during the violent wage strike.

The hearing was set up by President Jacob Zuma to investigate whether police were justified in using live ammunition on 34 striking miners in the North West town on August 16.

The bishop said Lonmin missed an opportunity to resolve the wage dispute by not pushing police to allow them to speak to miners at the koppie.

Lonmin's lawyer Schalk Burger said Seoka cannot point fingers at the employer he had left the area himself when the bloody shooting took place.

Police had cordoned off the area.

Burger also said Seoka took sides even before the shooting took place.

"Bishop, I must put to you that your role of peacemaker was badly undermined by your absence in trying to understand the background to the dispute when you walked in on August 16."

In an apparent attempt to dodge certain questions, Seoka started speaking Zulu at one point, saying his words were being minced.

But the bishop did not back down when he was being scrutinised.