Wrong to use Marikana to score political points – Zuma

2012-09-17 14:34

President Jacob Zuma lashed out at the leaders of “some political parties” who he said were using the Marikana tragedy “to score political points instead of putting the interests of the workers and the country first”.

Addressing delegates at Cosatu’s congress this afternoon, about three hours after he was scheduled to do so, Zuma said some leaders have likened the law enforcement campaign in Marikana to apartheid era measures.

“They know what they are saying is not true,” he said.

Zuma did not mention expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s name.

Malema was escorted from the Wonderkop stadium in Marikana by police earlier today after he tried to address workers.

Zuma told Cosatu delegates the deployment of police and the defence force in Marikana did not violate their rights to protest “peacefully and unarmed”.

Zuma, who slipped in quietly at the beginning of the congress but whose name was chanted by a few groups of delegates as he took his place on the stage, said police and the army were sent there “given the levels of violence and intimidation in Marikana”.

Over the past six weeks 45 people have died in violence, 34 of whom were shot dead by police during a wildcat strike.

He said law enforcement agencies “have been told to be firm, but to respect the rights of residents and strikers”.

Zuma also congratulated Cosatu for re-electing their six national office bearers unopposed, minutes before he started his speech.

“I would like to thank you. You have really given us a big hope as ANC and alliance. What is important then, comrades, is that no matter how intense the contestation has been, once congress has taken a decision it is a decision of all of us,” he said.

Zuma also praised Cosatu for bringing back “the majority and unity” and for “avoiding divisions”.

Shortly after his speech, Zuma started singing, first “noma kubi, siyaya” (we go forward even if there are difficulties”) and then his trademark “mshini wami”, which saw even delegates from the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) joining in.

Numsa has been critical of Zuma’s leadership, whereas the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), sitting in the block next to them, supports him.

Earlier during the congress there were signs of division as delegates seated in the Numsa block cheered loudly when images of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi were shown on video, and NUM delegates cheered when Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini appeared on screen.

Congress adjourned for lunch at about 3.30pm, and will come back later to hear Vavi deliver his political report.

The congress ends on Thursday.

» Follow @carienduplessis and @City_Press for updates from the congress.

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