Marikana: Govt won’t talk, it’s mourning

Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi refused to answer journalists' questions at a post-Cabinet briefing on Wednesday, on whether Cabinet discussed the likelihood of spillover effects; if there were contingency plans in place; and whether it endorsed the police actions used in Marikana last week.

Manyi said because of the period of mourning this week, he would refuse to give answers, adding that it should be observed by all.

"Let me put it this way, right now the president has declared this whole week as a week of mourning. The Cabinet posture is a mourning posture," said Manyi.

He continued: "Top of mind for Cabinet as things stand, we think that the loss of life is a very serious matter, that's what government is busy with."

Manyi said Cabinet is waiting to hear what the judicial commission of inquiry is going to come up with and is wary of making statements that are not thoroughly analysed and processed. "The president has been very clear that this week, let's mourn and not do recriminations and finger-pointing."

But Wendell Roelf from Reuters, who had asked the question, pointed to reports that there was another strike action taking place at the Royal Bafokeng Platinum mine outside Rustenburg in the North West, where workers downed tools and were demanding a salary increase.

"I understand it's a period of mourning, I understand about the commission of inquiry, I understand that, but without sounding insensitive, that is old news. At the moment there are people who are being blocked at other mines. What is government planning to do should this sector of mine be further affected?" he asked.

Manyi responded: "In government, when the president has spoken, we listen. The president has been very clear, this is a period for mourning and giving counselling to families and Cabinet is endorsing that position.

"Our view as government is that South Africa as a whole should respect that and should be saying what it is that we can do in our various individual and various capacities to assist the bereaved families.

"I know that your requirement for news does not meet that issue, it's one of those things, and I can't help that."

Independent Newspapers' political editor Gaye Davis rebuked Manyi, saying the question relating to the spillover effects of Marikana was "very legitimate" as the country's economy revolves around mining, a crucial sector.

"We do accept that it's a week of mourning, and we have enormous empathy and sympathy for the events that took place, but I feel we can't just accept an answer that simply says it's a week of mourning and we are not going to entertain the possibility of further issues rising in the sector. I think we deserve a better answer," said Davis.

Manyi would still not budge.

"I understand the emotions of the journalists on this matter, but as the government we have a responsibility to say, as emotional as it is, we have to handle it in the most sensitive way and … the president has decided this is a week of mourning.

"Whether there's a spillover or not, those are matters determined by facts and one has to look at and analyse the facts …before you make a pronouncement," said Manyi.

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