Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, for the families, brought the complaint shortly after the inquiry resumed its public hearings on Friday.
It was prompted by the fact that police Brigadier Adriaan Calitz testified exclusively in Afrikaans.
“I did not have a problem with translation… I have been approached by the families from Lesotho, who are saying ‘because the Brigadier is insisting on speaking in Afrikaans, which apparently is his Constitutional right, Sesotho has been eliminated completely,” Ntsebeza said.
“There are three channels [of translation used at the commission] and the Brigadier is speaking in Afrikaans, then there is a translation to English and another translation from English to IsiXhosa.”
Some of the families had been prejudiced, contended Ntsebeza, saying five families had raised the complaint.
Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, then translated Calitz’s brief testimony.
“He was telling us about the experience he has had, which he referred to yesterday about a riotous incident. He particularly told us about an incident in May last year when there was a strike and there was disorder,” Farlam said.
“Police ran out of bullets in the incident.”
Farlam said perhaps arrangements would be made to cater for the Sotho-speaking families next week.
“We will see what we can do, if it’s possible to do something. [We may] provide for a third translation service just for those five people, I am not sure whether we can do that,” he said.
“We may have to resort to translating the transcript to them when it becomes available.”
Head of the evidence leaders, Geoff Budlender, said translators at the commission had complained that Calitz, apart from answering quickly to the questions, also spoke too quickly.
On Friday, some people in the auditorium were dressed in Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party regalia.
In May, the commission heard that Calitz gave the order for police to “engage” the striking Marikana miners in August last year.
A video clip taken from a helicopter that Calitz was in during the police’s dispersal operation at Marikana was played for the commission.
“Get out there and engage,” Calitz is heard saying on the clip.
Calitz was one of the commanders assigned to the Marikana operation.
Another police officer, Maj-Gen Charl Annandale, who was under cross-examination at the time, confirmed Calitz’s voice was audible in the clip.
“That was Papa one, Brigadier Calitz,” said Annandale.
Annandale headed the police tactical response team during the wage-related unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West last year. He said he was at the joint operations centre listening to the police radio when the instruction was given.
The three-member commission is holding public hearings in Centurion. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead on August 16, 2012 and 78 were wounded when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policeman and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in August last year. – Sapa