Marikana activists disrupt Trevor Manuel’s Ruth First lecture

2013-08-29 20:59

About 15 activists and miners from Marikana were kicked out of a lecture by Planning Minister Trevor Manuel on the aftermath of the massacre, after their demand to ask questions was turned down.

The lecture was held in the Wits Great Hall in honour of journalist, communist and anti-apartheid activist Ruth First.

Claire Ceruti from the Democratic Left Front demanded that they be allowed to ask Manuel how his Cabinet could have approved the police’s actions during the Marikana shooting just over a year ago.

Anton Harber, who organises the annual lecture, told them it wasn’t customary to allow questions at these events. He repeatedly apologised by saying, “I’m sorry” as the demands from the group, especially from Ceruti, got more heated. Eventually security guards ushered the group out of the hall. They briefly toyi-toyied outside the venue before leaving.

Manuel’s lecture centred around the National Development Plan. One of the pillars on which the plan is built, he said, was active citizenry.

A miner who would only identify himself as Joseph, and who was among the striking miners at Marikana during last year’s shooting, said he had spent his whole day at the Farlam commission of inquiry and came here to hear what the lecture was about. He said he agreed with Manuel on some points but would have liked to present his view.

“This man (Manuel) is talking about us without us presenting our side of the story. He is talking about bad conditions where we live without us giving our side of the story,” he said in Xhosa.

Johnny Clegg, whose fee-free performance followed the lecture and the altercation, told the audience: “The interaction that went on tonight is part and parcel of who we are. I thought it was a very important moment that happened,” tweeted David Smith from The Guardian.

Said Harber: "We had heard they wanted to protest. And we said we welcome it. "We thought they will be picketing. We just asked them to keep it in the rules. Feelings are strong and it is part of the whole thing. Johnny Clegg was right."

Asked why he didn't allow questions, he said: "We discussed and debated this. We have never done it in this lecture. They wanted (advocate) Dali Mpofu to give a rejoinder and we didn't feel that was appropriate. We are keen to accommodate dissent but there are limits."

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