Police prevent politician from addressing SA miners
SOUTH AFRICAN police refused to allow controversial politician Julius Malema to address a group of striking miners yesterday because the authorities say he is inciting violence in the mining sector.
Police refused to say who ordered them to stop the former African National Congress Youth League leader from speaking to thousands of Lonmin miners at the Wonderkop stadium near Marikana in the North West province.
However, the move was in line with a government decision last week to act against “illegal gatherings” and those trying to incite violence in the sector, which is struggling to return to normality since 34 miners were killed by police during an illegal strike on August 16th.
Mr Malema is one of South African president Jacob Zuma’s most vocal critics. The firebrand politician has been using the Marikana shooting to campaign against Mr Zuma’s reinstatement as ANC leader at the party’s elective conference in December.
In recent weeks Mr Malema has called on miners to make the industry “ungovernable”, and for miners to implement five-day strikes each month across the country.
On Saturday police said they were investigating a case against Mr Malema opened by white workers’ union Solidarity, which claims he is behind the violence and intimidation that have closed four mines in the past month.
Gold Fields’ Kloof and Driefontein mines on the West Rand, and Gold One International in Modder East, Ekurhuleni, have experienced unrest over the past week.
Some 42 people were arrested near the Bafokeng Rasimone platinum mine in the North West province yesterday, after about 1,500 miners went on strike over pay.
Over the weekend police raided the informal settlements around Lonmin’s Marikana mine for illegal weapons and at least six people were injured by rubber bullets when protesters marching on the local police station initially refused to disperse.
Yesterday Mr Zuma defended the law enforcement measures, saying they were aimed at ending violence and intimidation, and not at undermining civil liberties.
“This [police presence] does not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest, peacefully and unarmed, as provided for in the laws of the land. The agencies have been told to be firm, but to respect the rights of residents and strikers,” he said.
Lonmin maintained it could not meet the 12,500 rand (€1,160) wage demands sought by the miners but promised a new approach to dealing with the pay talks, which restarted yesterday. In an opinion piece in South Africa’s Sunday Times, Lonmin acting chief executive Simon Scott said the company was going through a process of reflection and would improve discussions with strikers.
By yesterday evening it appeared negotiations had taken a turn for the better when the striking Lonmin miners said they would drop their pay demands to R11,000 (€1,020) per month.