/ 23 August 2012

Marikana: Malema sparks chaos at memorial service

Julius Malema addresses the mourners at a memorial for the dead Lonmin miners.
Julius Malema addresses the mourners at a memorial for the dead Lonmin miners.

Speaking at a memorial service held on Thursday to remember the miners killed in the Lonmin tragedy, Malema transformed the event into a political rally slamming government's role in the incident.

The mayhem at Marikana last week saw 250 people arrested, more than 70 people were injured. In total, 44 people were killed after clashes last week Wednesday between rival trade unions National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the newer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) left 10 people dead. Thirty-four miners were killed the next day after a shootout between police and strikers at the mine.

Originally billed as a religious service organised in tandem with government, the memorial degenerated into a free-for-all, with government ministers being forced to leave.

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 for political point scoring.

The man called for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma and the reinstatement of Malema in the ruling party.

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

After order was restored, events heated up once again during Malema's closing address to mourners.

"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."

'Soldier on'
Malema used his address to reiterate his call for 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, prompting the government ministers' 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 after workers barred them from attending.

As police left the crowd could be heard singing "Phansi amagwala! Phansi! [Down with the cowards!]".

Malema, his former spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, suspended ANC Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, several youth league national executive council members – including deputy secretary general Kenetswe Mosenogi and United Democratic Front 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.

Commission of inquiry
Meanwhile, speaking at a media briefing at the Union Buildings on Thursday afternoon, President Jacob Zuma has announced Judge Ian Farlam, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, will chair the commission of inquiry appointed the commission of inquiry to establish the facts about what happened in Marikana.

The independent-minded Farlam is one of the country's most experienced judges and is highly regarded in legal circles.

He started practicing in 1968, and served as a judge in the Orange Free State Provincial Division (now the Free State High Court) and the Cape Provincial Division (now the Cape High Court) before serving in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Farlam will be joined by Advocate Bantubonke Tokota, who has acted as a judge in the Eastern Cape Labour Court and Transvaal Provincial Division (North Gauteng High Court), and Advocate Pingla Hemraj, who has served as a judge in the high courts of Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown.

The terms of reference of the inquiry are far-reaching. The commission will probe Lonmin's conduct, and will focus on whether it did its best to resolve any disputes with the labour force, whether it responded appropriately to threats and the outbreak of violence that occurred, whether it created or permitted "an environment conducive to the creation of tension, labour unrest, disunity among its employes or other harmful conduct" and whether it took appropriate steps to ensure the safety of its employees and prevent the outbreak of violence.

The commission will also examine Lonmin policies generally, including the procedure, practices and conduct relations to its employees and organised labour.