/ 21 August 2012

Malema, Marikana residents lay murder charges against police

The strikers said they would go with Malema to the local police station to lay murder charges against police who shot dead 34 of their colleagues last Thursday.
The strikers said they would go with Malema to the local police station to lay murder charges against police who shot dead 34 of their colleagues last Thursday.

Marikana residents and striking miners had converged at the Wonderkop squatter camp on Tuesday morning, awaiting Malema.

After his arrival at about 12.30pm, Malema addressed them briefly before heading into the Marikana police station to lay murder charges against police who shot dead 34 protesters last Thursday.

"I want an independent investigation into this. People have died and we need answers, because I don't trust President Zuma and his inquiry,'" Malema told reporters outside the station.

Read the liveblog of the Lonmin mine shooting here

Mining company Lonmin said earlier that over 33% of its staff had turned up for work, 19.5% of whom were rock drillers.

Police kept their distance from the locals. A few policemen went up the koppie, where protesters had gathered days earlier ahead of the shooting, and watched locals at the meeting nearby while armoured vehicles patrolled the area.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, security had blocked access to the premises and cars transporting personnel were seen entering the mine every few minutes.

Employees were the only people allowed access after last week's protest action by mineworkers that initially saw 10 people, including two security guards and two police officers, killed.

The protest action culminated in clashes with the police on Thursday, in which 34 miners were shot dead. More than 70 were injured and 260 were arrested.

The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher pay.

The General Council of the Bar of South Africa, meanwhile, said the claim that police acted in self-defence should be urgently tested.

"Two core values in our democratic order include the right to life and the right to human dignity," chairperson IAM Semenya SC said in a statement.

"The duty to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the republic and their property, and to uphold the law, is also placed squarely on the police under the Constitution."

Semenya said weekend media reports claimed that around 400 rounds of ammunition were fired by police during the incident.

"Spokespeople for the police have claimed that they acted in self-defence. These contentions should urgently be tested," he said.

Semenya said the events at Marikana raised questions about the circumstances and compliance by police officers.

Semenya welcomed the inquiry launched by Zuma but said it would not pronounce on the guilty parties.

"Commissions of inquiry are useful to investigate and establish facts and to advise on any corrective action which might be taken to avert similar events in the future. However, they operate within constraints," said Semenya.

"A commission of inquiry will not, for example, be able to pronounce on the guilt or otherwise of those implicated in the deaths and injuries suffered by the victims at Marikana. Only the courts can do that," he said.

'Poverty led to deaths'
The ANC in Limpopo, meanwhile, said inequality and poverty were to blame for the deaths.

"The inequality gaps and extreme levels of poverty leading to the kind of socioeconomic desperation experienced by large portions of our population on a daily basis is the underlying reason," provincial spokesperson Makonde Mathivha said in a statement.

"Clear, unambiguous steps need to be taken by leaders, both in government and the private sector, to vigorously pursue economic transformation at an unparalleled pace if a repeat of this kind of senseless massacre is to be avoided."

Mathivha said socioeconomic problems would never be resolved through heavily armed police.

"We join loved ones and dependants of the deceased in saluting their lives to the struggle to realise economic emancipation for hardworking, impoverished communities in South Africa," he said.

Heavy security
Lonmin had on Monday extended its ultimatum for workers to return to their jobs on Tuesday morning or face dismissal.

On Tuesday morning, however, Lonmin mine said its objective was not just to dismiss people, but to find a reasonable solution to the situation.

Lonmin executive vice-president for mining Mark Munroe told Talk Radio 702: "A deadline or ultimatum is not helping anyone. We strongly encourage people to come to work as soon as possible. There is a lot of action you can take before you dismiss someone."

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane called on Lonmin to suspend the deadline.

"We hope they will understand the gravity of the situation," Chabane told SAfm.

After discussions with mine management "we thought they [the mine] understood that", he said.

From the main road in Marikana, 2km away from the mine shaft, a bus carrying workers was seen entering the premises.

State intelligence ineffective
A police expert on Tuesday said state intelligence, crippled by vacancies in top positions, had been inefficient in helping police deal with the violence at Marikana.

The State Security Agency's three top positions were currently vacant, reported Business Day.

Also, police crime intelligence did not have a chief after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria interdicted former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli from performing in his position pending a review of a decision to withdraw criminal charges against him.

"My view is that the state intelligence was unable to be very helpful, partly due to the mess that the intelligence services are in," Institute of Security Studies police expert Johan Burger was quoted as saying.

Due to suspensions and resignations, "probably crime intelligence was not able to play the role it should have", said Burger.

Business Day said President Jacob Zuma's office, who was responsible for making senior government appointments, had not responded to questions sent by the newspaper.

Need for stricter regulations
The South African Confederation of Trade Unions (Sacotu) has also called for stricter regulations to avoid a repeat of the shooting.

"Our Labour Relations Act provides for the regulation of centralised collective bargaining through bargaining councils," Sacotu president Koos Bezuidenhout said in a statement.

"We have been calling for a bargaining council for the mining industry to be established for a long time, and we hope that this shocking event will spur the lagging processes into renewed action."

Bezuidenhout said it was important to create a process to deal with all employment relations matters in the mining and other sectors.

Sacotu consists of the Federation of Unions of South Africa and the National Council of Trade Unions. – Additional reporting by Sapa