Uproar at service for 44 killed in mine violence

Fri, Aug 24, 2012, 01:00

A MEMORIAL service for 44 people who died during the mine violence in South Africa recently degenerated into farce yesterday when a verbal outburst by former ANC youth league leader Julius Malema prompted attending government ministers to walk out.

Mr Malema, expelled from the African National Congress (ANC) earlier this year for sowing divisions within the ruling party, has been using the tragedy at the Marikana mine in the North West province to attack President Jacob Zuma and his party allies.

Up to 100 family members and friends of the deceased travelled from across South Africa to join hundreds more at the service held near the Lonmin-owned mine.

Several women broke down when they saw jackets, blankets and shoes that belonged to the 34 dead miners shot dead by police after week-long violent protests that caused another 10 deaths at the Rustenburg mine. Before the event, religious leaders asked that people refrain from using the service to score political points.

It was hoped that the ceremony would help soothe the emotional wounds of a nation still reeling from the worst massacre in South Africa’s post-apartheid era, but Mr Malema did not heed the call for calm, instad using the service to whip up anti-government sentiment, accusing the attending ministers of only turning up to pose for news cameras. The ministers, he said, were “cowards” who would not help workers because they were involved with the mine companies. “Under democracy our people will be protected. But government has turned against its people,” he said.

In response to the outburst, police minister Nathi Mthethwa, minister in the presidency Collins Chabane, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and co-operative governance minister Richard Baloyi walked out of the service.

Elsewhere yesterday at government buildings in Pretoria, President Zuma announced the terms of the judicial commission of inquiry that will investigate the so- called Marikana Massacre.

Its inquiry will cover mining company Lonmin, the rival unions that sparked the strike, the government, the police and individuals involved in the incident.