Zuma ‘makes up for’ Marikana absence

2012-08-22 20:16

ANC President Jacob Zuma used the James Moroka Centenary Lecture to reach out to Lonmin mine workers whose 34 colleagues were killed by police during a strike in Marikana last week.

He promised to announce details and members of the judicial commission of inquiry into the Marikana deaths before the end of the week.
 
Zuma seemed to be making up for the absence he was accused of when he visited only the injured miners at the hospital on Friday.

Before going to Mahikeng to deliver the lecture he met survivors of the Marikana violence for the first time in the area where the shooting took place.

“I have now listened to all sides, but I will not judge the incident,” he said. “The judicial commission that we have set up will uncover the truth about what happened at Marikana. It must tell us how an industrial strike degenerated into violence.”

Zuma, who maintained that he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the Marikana killings – both of the 10 people killed on different days after the beginning of the strike and the 34 who were shot dead by police last Thursday – said this week is “not a week to apportion blame or (for) fingerpointing. It is a week for unity and to support the bereaved families.”

In his lecture Zuma acknowledged that mine workers were still working under difficult conditions coupled with poor living conditions.

“They remain among the poorest in our communities. This industry is a backbone of our economy and we must make sure its growth also benefits workers and communities they (mining companies) operate in,” said Zuma. “It should not be such an industry that has the lowest paid workers.”

Zuma said he was particularly talking about the mining industry because “we are commemorating a president who presided over the militarisation of the ANC. What we are seeing (in the mining sector) is a continuation of the freedom of expression that was started by the ANC.”

Zuma said the Mining Charter was meant to help improve miners’ working conditions. He said some of the demands government has put to mining companies include upgrading hostels into family units, maintaining the ratio of one person per room and facilitating housing ownership by the year 2014. In addition, mining companies need to report annually to government on compliance with the Mining Charter.

Zuma said a government audit conducted last year among North West platinum mining companies found that there was only a 50% compliance with providing decent accommodation to mine workers. “One company has got a hostel accommodating 166 workers who have to share four toilets and four showers among them. Mining companies know non-compliance means losing licensing rights.”

Zuma said it was sad that a strike for better wages and living conditions was marred by violence that resulted in the loss of life. He mentioned a strike by Impala Platinum mine workers at the beginning of the year that was “also far from peaceful”.

The James Moroka Centenary Lecture was one of the few where Zuma managed to command overwhelming support that showed clear signs of the drive to secure him a second term in Mangaung. Around 3 000 people attended the lecture. Chairpersons of provinces known to back Zuma for re-election descended on Mahikeng in a show of support. The Free State’s Ace Magashule and his secretary, William Bulwana, and also KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Zweli Mkhize and his secretary, Sihle Zikalala, attended the lecture.

Two Botswana political parties, the ruling Botswana National Front and Botswana Movement for Democracy, sent representatives to attend the lecture.

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