Lekota lashes Zuma on Marikana

2012-09-01 16:34

Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota has accused President Jacob Zuma of not following the Constitution of the country in his government’s treatment of the Marikana mineworkers’ killing.

In an interview with City Press, Lekota said Zuma’s administration was to blame for the shootings by police because of the harsh stance the South African Police Service (SAPS) under Zuma has adopted.

“When Mandela became president the police force changed into a service.

It remained a service throughout Thabo Mbeki’s two terms.

Then Zuma comes in and tells the nation that the police should become a force.

It’s either he doesn’t read the constitution or doesn’t subscribe to the constitution of this country,” Lekota said.

“Now the police shoot to kill. They forget that the constitution of this country says there shall be no death penalty. When you give a young person like those policemen a machine-gun with live ammunition, what do you say they should do with them? It’s things like these that raise my feelings... no doubt.”

The majority of policemen in Marikana were armed with semi-automatic R5 assault rifles, which apparently can only fire live ammunition.

Lekota angered ANC MPs during the debate on police killings of 34 Marikana mineworkers when he questioned the constitutionality of the use of live ammunition during the strike and effectively blamed Zuma for the massacre.

He said Zuma’s reintroduction of new ranks “with a military connotation like general and colonel” was a step backwards for the country.

The SAPS’s tactical response team (TRT), better known as Amabherete, dominated the action in Marikana and led to the shooting of mineworkers. Amabherete are known to be heavy-handed and bullies.

They were launched in November 2009 just after Zuma was elected the country’s president, as a unit meant to increase police response to “medium risk crime,” according to the SAPS website.

“Their main objective is to successfully execute medium risk policing operations to minimise or eliminate the impact of critical incidents or loss of life. They are used to manage the provision of a specialised tactical capacity at cluster level,” read an SAPS article published when the TRT was launched.

But Lekota, who has been labelled “bitter” on several occasions when he criticised particularly his former comrades in the ruling ANC, says he’s not about to be silenced. “I always fight the issues, not people,” he was quick to clarify.

“I owe it to the citizens of this country to do my job. When there’s nothing that government does wrong I can sit down in Parliament and earn money without doing anything."

He’s now supporting the relaunch of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and refused to sign a letter by several ANC leaders opposing the relaunch.

The first publicity secretary of the UDF, Lekota said a front is “a tactic that has been tried and tested” to challenge government where citizens’ challenges are not resolved.

“Today we are faced with other evils like corruption, lack of service delivery and the abuse of women. If people say we can’t solve these evils with the ANC, they’ve got the right to launch a front to mobilise churches and civic organisations.”

He said the country was “in a crisis” that government was failing to resolve.

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