Zuma defends Marikana raids

By Drum Digital
17 September 2012

President Jacob Zuma hit back at opposition parties on Monday for comparing a strong police presence in Marikana, North West, to apartheid tactics.

"We appeal to some political party leaders in the country who have been vocal, to desist from the irresponsible language of comparing the Marikana law enforcement campaign to apartheid-era measures," he said at the Congress of SA Trade Unions' 11th national congress in Midrand.

"They know that what they are saying is not true. They are unashamedly using a tragedy to score political points instead of putting the interests of the workers and the country first."

Last month, 34 striking workers were shot dead and 78 wounded in a clash with police at Lonmin's Marikana mine in the North West.

Zuma said the increased police presence at Marikana was a reaction to increased intimidation and violence by striking workers.

"This [police presence] does not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest, peacefully and unarmed, as provided for in the laws of the land. The agencies have been told to be firm, but to respect the rights of residents and strikers," he said.

"This applies not only to labour disputes, but also in service delivery protests which are at times also accompanied by violence, including the destruction of property."

He said Cosatu needed to "deliberate on the balance of forces" and strengthen itself, especially in the mining sector.

"We have to find a way to restore workplace stability and labour peace. Violence cannot become a culture of our labour relations," Zuma said.

"Workers and employers need to use the laws of the land which spell out clearly how to handle disputes between themselves."

Zuma also congratulated Cosatu's leadership after all positions were retained unopposed.

"Originally I was supposed to greet you, before elections. Now I must greet you as the new office bearers... and I wish to congratulate you, this new fresh from the box, collective of the office bearers," he said.

"It says something to this federation... that when challenges are there, this federation brings back unity."

He said he needed to thank Cosatu delegates for preventing those who wanted to "deplete" the federation from taking control of the congress.

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