Editorial: Dlamini-Zuma has no answers

To say that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was “chased away” from Marikana, as some media did this week, was an overstatement. It called to mind stick-waving warriors or yelling crowds, whereas the fact that she was not welcome at the place where the police massacred 34 striking miners was made clear to her fairly politely when she arrived, and she left quietly. She didn’t even get out of the car.

President Jacob Zuma’s would-be successor going to Marikana was, as has been noted elsewhere, a political misstep — one that a presidential hopeful, campaigning for presidential office, should certainly not have made. The move has been called short-sighted and ill-advised.

Who was advising Dlamini-Zuma? Her chief group of cheerleaders, the ANC Women’s League? They have certainly not shown any original thinking in any way for years, so why would anyone imagine they are best placed to handle her campaign?

Not that it’s an official campaign, or even an open one, and it’s not directed at the electorate generally, despite the scores of women’s league regulars who were bused in with Dlamini-Zuma to provide a ready-made and sympathetic audience. Her campaign is aimed at ANC loyalists, in particular the few thousand who will vote for the party’s new president in December.

So it seems the idea was to give Cyril Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma’s chief competitor in this race, one in the eye, as it were. Marikana is a blot on his reputation, and he certainly wouldn’t be able to turn up at the hill of death to lay a wreath, as Dlamini-Zuma is said to have intended to do. Ramaphosa is seen as one of the chief villains of Marikana, as a mining-company boss and one who urged “concomitant” action against the strikers.

Was it one of her campaign managers who thought that, if she turned up there with 30 busloads of women’s leaguers in their ANC T-shirts, she would be able to lay a wreath and enact a theatre of sympathy for the cause of the slain miners?

Perhaps she and her campaign managers were unaware that the government, led by the ANC, which she represents, has done almost nothing for the families of those killed — by agents of that government — five years ago. A long drawn-out commission of inquiry was barely able to establish the names of those who fired the bullets or to untangle the chain of command that led to a military solution to the strike problem. It was only in March this year that the state was able to formulate charges against 72 of the police officials involved in the massacre. And only this week were the final outstanding dockets regarding them resubmitted to the National Prosecuting Authority by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, a spokesperson said.

Would Dlamini-Zuma have been able to stand up at Marikana and tell its people that this was a sign that justice was on the way? Would she have been able to apologise for her government’s role in the massacre? Would she have been able to explain this excruciatingly slow turn of the wheels of justice? 

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