Malema tough act to follow for govt leaders at Marikana

2012-08-21 18:15

The first senior government leaders who braved the piece of veld where striking Lonmin miners are gathering have received a frosty reception.

It was clear that former youth league president Julius Malema had been there first – winning hearts and minds.

A series of visibly upset miners first gave the assembled ministers a dressing down before allowing them to speak to the approximately 1 000 assembled miners.

“I had been bleeding inside but Malema brought us together and made us strong,” said one.

“We had faith in our government ... but President Jacob Zuma never even came to us, to hear how we are surviving bullets,” he said.

The messages mirrored a well-received speech Malema had made to about 3 000 miners on Saturday, in which he blamed Zuma for “presiding over the massacre of our people”.

Malema also said Zuma “lacked the courage” to come and speak to the miners.

The first speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, minister of defence, tried to defend the president, saying that the reason Zuma did not “talk to you was because it was at night”.

After 34 miners were shot by police on Thursday, Zuma had cancelled a SADC trip to Mozambique, and flew back to South Africa.

He addressed a press conference and visited a hospital, but did not speak to the striking miners.

Mapisa-Nqakula apologised on behalf of government, saying that the shooting was “not what we wanted to happen” .

She said she knew that the miners had voted the ANC into government and called on people to remember that “blood has flown for this country to be where it is today”.

She also said that government did not agree with the ultimatum issued by Lonmin for striking mineworkers to return to work on Monday.

The ministerial delegation was presented with a pile of evidence of the shooting that had taken place, including syringes, latex gloves, bandages and an R5 bullet.

On the sidelines of the meeting were former ANC Youth League leaders Floyd Shivambu and Sindiso Magaqa, who consulted with community leaders before the address.

Malema had also been in the area earlier in the day to assist several miners in opening cases against police and against NUM security guards.

Malema said they had “full confidence” in the police investigation, because there would be “no political interference”.

He said that it could “not be manipulated like a commission of inquiry” because no politicians were involved.

Malema said that the shooting had “everything to do with the fact that (Zuma) is a weak leader” .

“In a country where you have strong leadership, such things will not happen.”

Lonmin yesterday issued a statement in which it said 33% of its 28 000-strong workforce had reported for work, including about one in five rock drill operators, who are at the centre of the wage dispute.

The company said that after consultations with ministers and unions, it had agreed that no disciplinary action would be taken against striking workers who did not return to work this week.

“The government, Lonmin and the unions are in agreement that the best way to start to rebuild trust is to return to something close to normality.”

Phathekile Holomisa, president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA, and North West Premier Thandi Modise also addressed the crowd briefly.

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