SA’s leaders thought that Marikana would ‘blow over’

2012-09-15 17:06

State is now cracking down on violence after misjudging protest as ‘isolated’

South Africa’s leaders did not ­respond earlier to the ongoing crisis in Marikana and at surrounding mines because they “thought Marikana was an isolated incident that would blow over”, a member of the government’s executive has revealed.

But he said it was now becoming clear “people (referring to sacked ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema) are willing to go on little adventures for their own ends that could have consequences for the state as a whole”.

Eight Cabinet ministers, as well as the chiefs of the police and the SA National Defence Force, said on Friday that government would no longer tolerate “acts of violence and intimidation”.

They were unclear, however, about whether live ammunition would be used again, how arrests would be carried out or whether the army would be deployed.

The briefing followed an ­earlier meeting of security cluster ministers, which included Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Intelligence Minister Siyabonga Cwele and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

The senior government leader said Malema was not a threat by himself, but “if you see he is ­willing to go as far as addressing soldiers, you know there are people who have the capacity to be adventurous”.

Malema met soldiers from the Lenasia military base on Wednesday. By having the press conference, “we needed to clearly remind people what the rules are, because in this confusion people can forget what the parameters are for protesting and incitement,” the leader said.

Another source in the security cluster said there seemed to be a “continuation of these actions (mine strikes)” and the government felt it needed to step in.

Another government official said the briefing was held ahead of the ANC’s national executive committee meeting, to which ministers rushed after they ­addressed journalists, to avert possible criticism from within the party that President Jacob Zuma’s government wasn’t taking decisive action.

The violence was high on the ANC NEC’s agenda as it met this weekend.

t was the first time the committee had discussed the matter since police killed 34 ­miners last month.

In a report by the party’s ­national working committee, ­tabled at this weekend’s meeting, the party bemoaned the fact that the police were in effect ­“immobilised” after the shooting “in the face of marches in the Lonmin offices and shafts by a group of strikers whereby the latter promised to shut the offices and also kill those at work”.

The party also expressed concern about the conflict spreading to gold mines.

The report bemoaned that “carrying weapons is now a norm, despite the country ­having seen a growing number of workers being hacked to death”.

Zuma this week in Parliament promised action against those inciting violence.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that two of the organisers of Malema’s meeting this week with disgruntled soldiers were arrested by military police on Friday night on charges related to disobeying commanders.

SA National Defence Force spokesperson Xolani Mabanga confirmed the soldiers’ arrests.

“The minister issued an ­instruction for them to report back for duty and they did not,” said Mabanga.

“The minister also issued an instruction that members should not attend the address by Julius Malema and they disobeyed that.”

He said they would face additional charges of intimidation and ­inciting other soldiers to revolt.

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