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Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula addresses mine workers at the Lonmin’s Marikana mine. (Themba Hadebe, AP)
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Rustenburg - A ministerial committee was greeted with antagonism on Tuesday when it tried to talk to striking Lonmin mine workers at Marikana, North West.
They told the committee they wanted national police commissioner Riah Phiyega to explain why she had allowed the police to shoot their colleagues.
On Thursday, police opened fire while trying to disperse a group of protesting mineworkers, killing 34 and wounding 78.
Another 260 were arrested on charges of public violence, and had since been denied bail.
The miners told the committee they objected to a memorial service being held while their arrested colleagues were unable to attend.
"How can you have a memorial service when our people are still in prison?" asked one of their leaders, Xolani Nzuza.
The committee, which consisted of several ministers, was set up to deal with the aftermath of the shooting. It arrived at the mine on Monday to speak to all concerned parties.
Workers started gathering at the Wonderkop settlement, near the mine, early on Tuesday ahead of the committee's visit.
Nzuza told the ministers the workers arrested should be released before a date for a memorial service could be discussed.
When the ministerial team arrived, workers demanded that the police, stationed about 200m away, should move or they would boycott the meeting.
"We do not feel safe near the police. Ask them to leave or you leave," Nzuza said.
The police were ordered to move and a helicopter hovering above was instructed out of the area.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the crowd that the team was there to comfort the bereaved families and to help them with funerals. The crowd interrupted her, telling her not to repeat what they had already heard.
They accused President Jacob Zuma of neglecting them.
"Only [expelled African National Congress Youth League president Julius] Malema came to our rescue after the police shot us. President Zuma disowned us", said one of the men, Alfred Bele.
He said Zuma had chosen to meet Lonmin management instead of addressing the workers.
Congress of Traditional Leaders president Phakatile Holomisa appealed to the workers to peacefully resolve their wage dispute with Lonmin.
North West Premier Thandi Modise urged them to allow the memorial service to continue as planned.
"The memorial service is part of healing. Please allow it to take place," she said.
After the ministers left, the workers dispersed. Police kept watch from a distance.
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