Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma was left unhurt after a tent in which he was delivering a Day of Reconciliation address at Gopane, North West, collapsed during a storm, the Presidency said.
"He is okay," Dr Bongani Ngqulunga told News24. "He wasn't injured."
Zuma was frantically pulled away from the venue by his bodyguards as the marquee top was lifted into the air by strong winds on Friday afternoon.
While the heavens had opened up earlier during his speech, they exploded just as he mentioned the Marikana massacre. Zuma began by declaring, "The incident was painful and traumatic not only for the families, but all South Africans."
However, as he began detailing how government was implementing the recommendations of the Farlam commission, the tent ripped apart.
The Farlam commission issued a report following its investigation into the police shooting of 112 striking Lonmin mineworkers – of which 34 were killed – on August 16, 2012.
All news broadcasts were cut and people began stampeding out of the venue when the tent collapsed.
Proceedings were subsequently cancelled for the rest of the day.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
'The ancestors are angry'
Before the tent's collapse, Zuma was enjoying a warm reception from the crowd as he conducted an extensive history lesson on various aspects of the holiday.
Earlier in his speech, he mentioned the need to accept that reconciliation was a "two-way process".
"While black people are implored to bury the pain of the past and move on, white compatriots should also be ready to accept and support the imperative of transformation and redress."
While Twitter was slow to comment on the president's actual speech, once the marquee collapsed, the event began trending, with many using their 140 characters to ascribe a more symbolic – even spiritual – meaning to the occurrence.
"The ancestors are angry, msholozi", tweeted Justntombi, while Khanyi Magubane suggested it was caused by the "spirits of Marikana".
"Even the mother nature have no chill [sic]," suggested Lebona Hlalele, while Ryan Cummings pondered, "Was that the winds of change blowing in at the North West #reconciliationday commemoration?"