The thundering sounds of rubber bullets and stun grenades rang outside Marikana Hall where North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo was delivering his state of the province address earlier today.
A police helicopter hovered above while other police officers had their hands full trying to calm down a group of Economic Freedom Fighters members, who were angered after some of the party’s invited guests, including councillors, were allegedly denied access at the security point because they were “late”.
From about five people in red party regalia who were at the security point, the number soon swelled to more than 50 EFF members who came to demand their officials be allowed in.
When security officials and police would have none of it, angry EFF members started pushing the gate in what escalated to a scuffle with the police.
They later went out where they started tearing down portable perimeter fence along erected around the venue to mark the “legislature precinct”.
All hell broke loose after public order police were called in starting with a stun grenade before dispersing EFF members with rubber bullets.
An EFF councillor from Tlhabane in Rustenburg, Kgomotso Sikwane, said she was among the invited guests barred from entering the venue.
“They started it when they refuse us entry when we were there before Mahumapelo started addressing the house.
“It was really unnecessary of them to do so and our members only came through to ask them to allow us in ... they still refused and people got angry,” she said.
At the time, EFF members of the provincial legislature (MPLs) had already been ejected from the legislature proceedings after they unsuccessfully raised several points of order.
One of the things they were demanding was that Mahumapelo apologise to the people of Marikana for the August 16 2012 killings – where 34 striking Lonmin miners perished in a hail of police bullets.
After battling to get the house in order due to frequent interjections from the EFF, Speaker Suzan Dantjie ordered that they be ejected, but MPLs said they were already on their way out.
“We were not going to sit there and listen to Mahumapelo when he has failed the province amid all the corruption and would not apologise to people of Marikana on behalf of the ANC,” said MPL Alfred Motsi.
“It is now known that he has signed, giving permission to officials from health department to travel to India on a trip paid for by a Gupta-linked company, which later received an advance payment of R30 million for a contract that was awarded without tender,” Motsi said.
He claimed that the area of Marikana where Mahumapelo was delivering his speech had been without water for some time until the days leading to today’s event.
Marikana is where the EFF was officially launched and maintains a stronghold.
The EFF members who were gathered outside singing anti-Mahumapelo songs said they were not happy that the ANC-led provincial government chose to hold its state of the province in the area.
Meanwhile, Dantjie had earlier explained inside the house that it was not Mahumapelo who decided to bring the event to the area but her.
In his address, Mahumapelo explained:
“We chose to have this state of the province address hosted by Marikana because we must push and move forward with reconciliation, healing and renewal.
“The people of Marikana, you are part of us and we are part of you. Nothing should be allowed to separate us.
“I therefore take this opportunity to bring you warm heated greetings from the president of the republic, Honourable Cyril Ramaphosa. You heard him in Parliament on Tuesday saying we need to heal the wounds of our past and move South Africa forward.”
Ramaphosa who was a shareholder in Lonmin in 2012 has often been accused by the EFF of the deaths of miners in Marikana.
He also appeared before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in the tragedy and was questioned on an email in which he asked for “concomitant action” against striking miners.
Ramaphosa said in response to debate on his state of the nation address: “Where we have made mistakes, we will correct them. The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy.
"Members will recall that the Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Judge Ian Farlam investigated the direct and root causes of the tragedy,” he said.
“Three broad areas were identified for action: compensation to those injured and the families of those who lost their lives; examining the procedures of public order policing; and preparing valid cases for prosecution according to applicable laws.
“Government is making progress in continuous engagement with the legal representatives of the victims, especially on the matter of reparations to families who lost their loved ones.”
Meanwhile, with the North West finding itself marred by controversial cases of corruption and maladministration from the past and a recent one including an exposé by City Press where a Gupta-linked company, Mediosa, received an advance payment of R30 million for the procurement of a mobile clinic service, Mahumapelo has promised to fight corruption.
“We welcome the emerging urgency to support the fight against greed, crime and corruption particularly in the public sector.
“In this context we urge former political heads of departments and MECs to make themselves available to assist with whatever information required to speed up investigation processes in those departments,” he said.