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'Marikana inquiry unbalanced'

The UDM joined others in expressing concern over the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

Protesters outside the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. The commission's credibility has been questioned by various parties due to the miners being denied the right to legal aid.Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has expressed concern over the credibility and objectivity of the outcome of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

The party's Bongani Msomi says the scales of justice in the hearing are woefully unbalanced.

"The state itself has spent at least R6.7 million to date on legal representation for the police. Without funding for these miners the grounds will remain uneven."

The inquiry was postponed on Monday for three days in the hope that interim funding will be obtained for Advocate Dali Mpofu's team.

Mpofu is representing miners arrested and injured during a deadly shooting at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August last year.

He has been representing the miners on a pro bono basis but says it is unfair to continue without funding while lawyers for police officers are paid for by government.

On Thursday, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the right to legal aid was not absolute leaving the miners without the support of Mpofu's legal team.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) has also expressed concern and has urged government to act to protect the commission's integrity.

Casac's Lawson Naidoo says government must make sure funding is available so that the commission can conclude its investigations.

"It's regrettable that the issue of funding has landed up in the courts. This is a matter that ought to have been resolved by the parties sitting around a table together called together by government to work out how best the commission can function and how resources can be made available to enable all participants to take part in the process."

Mpofu on Monday asked commission head Judge Ian Farlam for a three week postponement in order to lodge an application with the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.

Farlam says it's possible that funding will become available.

The matter is due to be heard on Thursday.

The commission is probing the death of 34 miners at Marikana near the Lonmin mine in August last year.

President Jacob Zuma set up the hearing to determine whether police were justified in using lethal force on striking miners.