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'Only Malema cares' - Lonmin miners spurn Zuma's task team

Nickolaus Bauer

The crisis surrounding events at Lonmin platinum mine has deepened after workers rejected overtures by the government to rescue the situation.

Lonmin workers’ representative Xolani Ndzuza speaks during the interministerial task team visit to Marikana as Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele look on. (Nickolaus Bauer, M&G)

"If [President Jacob] Zuma wants to show us he cares and that he wants to help, he can make sure we get the money we want," Xolani Ndzuza said on behalf of striking workers at the mine.

Read the liveblog of the Lonmin mine shooting here

Ndzuza was responding to the interministerial task team set up by Zuma to investigate last week's shooting, who visited the community on Tuesday.

Some 34 people were killed and 78 were wounded in a shootout between police and miners in Marikana, Rustenburg following a protracted labour dispute between workers and Lonmin management.

Most of those killed are understood to have been involved in illegal industrial action at the mine after rock drillers affiliated to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) demanded that their monthly salary of R4 000 be increased to R12 500.

"We agree with you that blood was spilled here. This is not something we condone," Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said, to angry jeers from the assembled crowd.

"We are sorry, this hurts all of us. As government we would like to assist you with the organisation of Thursday's memorial service," she added.

But the government's offer to help didn't placate the angry workers.

"Julius Malema is the only one who cares about us," Ndzuza said. "He spoke to us and he is helping us," 

Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema visited the mine on Saturday and again on Tuesday when, along with seven survivors of the incident, laid murder charges against police for the shooting.

"We don't want your help and we don't want the R2-million Cyril Ramaphosa said he would give to pay for the funerals and assist the families," Ndzuza told the government team.

Most of the workers who involved in last week's industrial action are still on strike, after only about a third of the Lonmin workforce returned to their posts on Tuesday.

Those who stayed away say they won't return to work until their demands are met.

Ndzuza also said the incident had caused workers to lose their faith in their political leaders.

"We won't vote for the ANC. Black people killed black people here. We have been forgotten. They hate us," Ndzuza said.

It is understood by the Mail & Guardian that a parallel memorial service is  being organised in opposition to the one being arranged by government and is supposedly being organised by the league.

"The police acted like they did before apartheid ended. It is not right and you must not accept it," Andile Lungisa, former ANC Youth League deputy president and current member of the league's national executive committee, told the assembled crowd of workers before the interministerial team arrived.

Expelled youth league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and suspended secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa were also among workers when they were addressed by the task team.

"It's obvious certain people will try and use this situation for their own personal reasons,"  Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, leader of the interministerial task team told the M&G, when asked about the involvement of current and former youth league leaders. "We are not able to control that and we can't stop people from coming here," 

Chabane also defended the government's approach to addressing the crisis.

"We were here as soon as the team was formed. We engaged bereaved and injured first, and we are here now to speak to workers. We will assure the memorial service goes off well and continue to deal with this situation," he said.


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