Cape Town: Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa told Parliament on Tuesday that police had done all its power to avert any bloodshed at the Lonmin Marikana Mine in the North West last week.
However, said the Minister, it would be up to the judicial Commission of Inquiry established by President Jacob Zuma to get to the bottom of who was responsible for the tragedy.
Minister Mthethwa was speaking in a special sitting of the National Assembly which debated the tragedy of Thursday, 16 August 2012 in which 34 striking miners were killed in clashes with police. Days earlier, 10 people, including two police officers, died in another incident at the mine.
In Parliament on Tuesday, political parties called for the immediate commencement of the Commission of Inquiry.
Mthethwa said: “As government and as fellow citizens, we offer our sincere condolences to all families who have lost their loved ones both on Thursday and in the days preceding Thursday’s events.”
Quoting Section 17 of the Constitution, which allows South Africans to gather peacefully and unharmed in protest and Section 205, which calls on police to maintain public order and uphold and enforce the law, Mthethwa said it was the responsibility of all South Africans to prevent the bloodshed seen at Marikana from happening again.
He said the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Marikana would brief the country daily on developments around the tragedy and government would, in partnership with community leaders, hold a main memorial service at Marikana on Thursday, August 23.
Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu said government regularly worked with all stakeholders and labour unions, but had not been aware of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) until the tragedy unfolded.
The minister said Mineral Resources would work with the Department of Labour to ensure labour legislation was followed and said a task team had been set up to ensure that all stakeholders understood collective bargaining agreements.
Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko called for the immediate establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and said the actions of all role players in events surrounding Marikana should be examined.
She said the inquiry should look into who authorised the use of live ammunition and the intelligence on which the operation was based.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe believed Lonmin should be held accountable for the insensitive way in which they had dealt with striking miners.
He said Amcu leaders should also take responsibility, as should the sangoma who had “cashed in” on the fears of striking miners, who were allegedly given muti before moving towards armed police.