No state of emergency: Presidency

By Drum Digital
17 September 2012

The presidency denied on Monday that there is an undeclared state of emergency in place to deal with labour problems in the mining sector.

"There is no question of a state of emergency," said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj.

Earlier on Monday, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa asked President Jacob Zuma -- in an open letter -- to lift the "undeclared state of emergency" that appeared to be in place in Marikana.

"We call on you to lift this undeclared state of emergency government has imposed on Marikana in order to ensure that we do not lose sight of the labour dispute at hand," Holomisa wrote.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed in the area on Saturday, barely a month after 34 people were killed in a violent confrontation with police.

Last week, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told journalists in Pretoria government would "deal very swiftly" with illegal protests.

The situation at the mines did not, however, warrant the declaration of a state of emergency, he said.

On Monday, African People's Convention president Hlabirwa Mathume said in a statement the security cluster's response to the mine protests was likely to make the situation worse.

"We do not need a state of emergency imposed on us by a democratically elected government," he said.

Maharaj said: "When it [a state of emergency] is declared a number of your civil liberties are suspended, and that is not the case."

The civil liberties of striking workers arrested recently for contravening the Illegal Gatherings Act had not been impinged on.

"It is to ensure nobody engages in any illegal act, intimidation, violent threats, or violence."

As such, it protected protesters and miners who wanted to work.

In his letter, Holomisa said the crackdown on illegal gatherings hampered salary negotiations as it made it impossible for workers to discuss the matter among themselves.

"By denying the workers an opportunity to gather peacefully, government plays into the hands of the employers, who might use this to divide the workers," Holomisa said.

Maharaj said it was not impossible for the striking miners to meet, provided they did so peacefully and unarmed. They would, however, need to seek permission to meet.

When asked whether this was not somewhat laborious, Maharaj replied: "Is it laborious to ensure no violence takes place?"

Freedom Front Plus spokesman Pieter Groenewald said in another statement the President was constitutionally bound to inform Parliament if the SANDF was deployed to help police deal with a situation.

"In such a case section 201(3) of the Constitution is clear that the President has to inform Parliament immediately with reasons, the place where, the number of people involved, and the period for which the defence force will in all likelihood be used."

Maharaj said the Constitution did not require Zuma to inform Parliament prior to deployment.

"The legislation does not require permission from Parliament, it only says that he must inform them."

Section 201(4) stated: "If Parliament does not sit during the first seven days after the defence force is employed... the President must provide the information required... to the appropriate oversight committee."

As the SANDF was deployed on Saturday, Zuma was still within the time allowed in terms of the legislation.

"The steps that government is taking are to ensure that nothing illegal is done, to protect the rights of strikers, and those who want to go to work.

"We will never remove rights that our people enjoy, won through the long freedom struggle.

"The President is deeply concerned about their [the protesters'] plight and committed to leading them to a better life," Maharaj said.

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