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Lonmin: SAPS a scapegoat?

21 August 2012, 14:40

As like many South Africans, I am still trying my best to digest the events that took place at Lonmin last week. On viewing the footage for the first time the news reader gravely warned that the scenes were extremely graphic, this proved to be a gross understatement. It was spine-chilling.

Many commentators have compared the event to Apartheid era massacres. The similarities are indeed shockingly evident.

The massacre was horrific.

This is not the time for all major stakeholders to play the blame game, but sadly this seems to be far from the case. To me, the victims must come first.

Politicians, the unions, Lonmin, popularists and even the President will be called on to answer for what has happened and so they should as there is certainly a broader context to this than just a wage increase.

Daily we see new reports, footage and analysis of the lead up to the shootings, but the footage gives rise to more questions than answers.

The police commissioner Riah Phiyega and Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa are facing the full brunt of the aftermath fallout and seem to be the designated scapegoats, due to the ‘excessive’ force used.

The SAPS cannot be hung out to dry on this. The context of the whole strike must be looked at in order to understand what transpired. Strikes and marches in South Africa are violent and destructive; this has sadly become the norm. Only a few months back at Impala Platinum mine there was violence and deaths as a result of the strike action. Lonmin was no different. The body count was already shocking before Thursday with security guards, police and workers all being murdered.  The police here were certainly not responsible, but instead were called on to protect and keep the area safe.  By all reports the strikers staging area had close to a 3000 strong crowd, armed to the teeth with panga’s and spears, to assume they had fireman’s is no far fetch seeing all previous deaths were a result of allegedly being shot. 

The then the strikers charged.

Why did they charge?

This is the main question I have. Were they coerced or encouraged, or did the collective mob ‘mentality’ drive them to charge a police line?

The police are being blamed for using excessive means, why? They had tried to negotiate, plead then use more conventional crowd control techniques with teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon with no result. 

Those young cops looked shell-shocked; they had to shoot, if they didn’t? Now they are being attacked from all sides for defending themselves. It’s a disgrace.

I sincerely hope the investigation asks the simple yet glaringly obvious questions and not to shy away when unexpected answers are given.

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