Dali Mpofu, the lawyer representing families of 34 miners killed and miners who were arrested during a strike at South Africa’s Marikana mine in August 2012, was stabbed on an Eastern Cape beach on Thursday. He is recovering in a local hospital and is in serious but stable condition.
A spokesperson for the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which is holding hearings into the Marikana shootings, said the commission did not believe the attack was related to Mpofu’s defense of the miners, the Independent reported. The commission was on a short break when Mpofu was assaulted.
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Erin Conway-Smith, who is based in Johannesburg, said police believe the motive was robbery. But the incident, which took place on a beach notorious for attacks, is an example of South Africa's high rate of crime, and the unnecessary levels of violence that often accompanies theft.
Separately, there have been two killings of individuals who were to testify at the inquiry into the fatal police shootings of 34 people at the Lonmin mine in Marikana.
Last month a "sangoma" — traditional healer/diviner — said to have performed a ritual on striking mineworkers, allegedly to protect them from bullets as they faced off with police, was gunned down at his home in the Eastern Cape. One report linked his murder with disputes in the minibus taxi industry.
In 2012, an official from the National Union of Mineworkers, who was going to be a material witness at the inquiry, was killed before testifying.
More from GlobalPost: Troubling video shows police shot Marikana strikers in cold blood
Robbers reportedly jumped out of dense bushes and attacked Mpofu as he walked on a stretch of beach between Eastern Beach and the Nahoon Reef, the Times reported.
They stole his jacket, cellphone, watch and car keys and stabbed him in his chest, back and leg, police told the Times.
"He told us two guys came at him to mug him,” Eastern Beach lifeguard Simpiwe Felani told the Times. “But he fought back and that's when he got stabbed. He must have walked for a few minutes. He had lost a lot of blood. We applied first aid, using bandages to close the wounds and stop the bleeding.”
The Farlam Commission is hoping to resume hearings next week. The group is looking into changing the schedule or having someone else from Mpofu’s team represent the miners while he recovers.
“The commission has to continue,” commission spokesperson Tshepo Mahlangu told the Independent. “We can't afford any more delays.”