Malema's moment of power

The emotional memorial service was the perfect stage for Julius Malema.(Paul Botes, M&G)

The emotional memorial service was the perfect stage for Julius Malema.(Paul Botes, M&G)

Julius Malema has emerged victorious from the political free-for-all at the Lonmin memorial service, with government ministers being forced to flee.

Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema emerged the victor from events at Lonmin mine this week as the memorial service held to remember 34 slain miners on Thursday transformed into a political rally slamming the government's role in the incident.

Originally billed as a religious service organised in tandem with the government, the memorial, which was held in a large marquee near the place where the Marikana massacre took place, degenerated into a free-for-all with government ministers being forced to flee.

Matters came to a head when an unidentified man took to the stage shortly after Archbishop Thabo Makgoba pleaded with politicians not to use the event to score political points. The man called for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma, who was not present, and the reinstatement of Malema in the ­ruling party.

The microphone was eventually snatched from his hands as he began to call for Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale to replace Zuma.

Order was restored but events heated up again during Malema's closing address to mourners.

Rapturous applause
"The democratically elected government has turned on its people," the youth leader said to rapturous applause. "This marquee we are gathered under – the friends of the youth league paid for this. The government did nothing for you; we are helping you. Government ministers are just here to pose for pictures."

A stage the government had seemingly set up adjacent to the scene of the bloody shooting was left unused.

Malema used his address to reiterate his call for South African mines to be nationalised.

"We are here with you. You must soldier on – never listen to cowards. We musn't stop until the whites agree to give us some of the money in these mines," he said.

Shortly afterwards, workers from the mine stormed to the front of the stage armed with knobkerries and sjamboks. This led to the government ministers' hasty exit.

Those attending the memorial included Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and North West Premier Thandi Modise.

No police were present at the ­ceremony – workers had barred them from attending.

As the politicians left the crowd could be heard singing: "Phansi amagwala. Phansi (down with the cowards)."

Malema, his former spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, suspended league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, several youth league national executive committee members and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa remained behind in the marquee. The group continued to address the crowd as several hundred workers returned to the hill where the shooting took place.

Meanwhile, Zuma has announced that Judge Ian Farlam will chair the judicial commission of inquiry into the Marikana tragedy.

Farlam is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal and also served as a judge in the Orange Free State and the Cape provincial divisions.

The commission will investigate Lonmin's conduct, in particular whether it did its best to resolve any labour disputes. The commission will also probe the conduct of the police, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

The commission will have the power to enter and search premises, secure the attendance of witnesses and compel people and organisations to produce documents for scrutiny.

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