Marikana: President Jacob Zuma has called on South Africans to unite as a nation as the country mourns the deaths of 34 protestors killed during clashes with police in Marikana, Rustenburg.
Reminding South Africans that they had come together to overcome difficult moments in the country’s past, Zuma said it was time to grieve together so that the healing and rebuilding process can begin.
The President cut short his participation in the SADC Summit in Mozambique to return to South Africa on Friday following the deaths at Lonmin, to be with those affected during the country’s hour of mourning.
Zuma, flanked by other Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, police management and provincial leadership, addressed the media after he was briefed about the latest developments in Marikana.
Tensions in the area have been high in the past weeks, following a strike by Lonmin Platinum mine employees and subsequent clashes between rival unions.
Apart from the 34 protestors killed yesterday, 10 others have also been killed — including two police officers — in nearly a week of fighting between rival worker factions.
Zuma said the events of the past few days had been both saddening and dismaying, adding that the deaths of the mine workers and members of the SAPS were tragic and regrettable.
“These events are not what we want to see or want to become accustomed to in a democracy that is bound by the rule of law and where we are creating a better life for all our people,” he said.
Such incidents were not expected, particularly in a country where there was a high level of organisation in the labour movement, the President said.
Turning to grief of the families, Zuma said the thoughts of all South Africans and government were with the families of those who had lost their lives and those recovering in hospitals.
“The events of the last few days have unfortunately been visited upon a nation that is hard at work addressing the persistent challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. We undertake this work in conditions of peace and stability, working with all sectors in our country.”
He assured South Africans that government was fully committed to ensuring the country remained a peaceful, stable, productive and thriving nation that was focused on improving the quality of life for all its people.
It was against this backdrop that the truth of what had happened at Marikana had to be uncovered, Zuma said, announcing that he had decided to institute a commission of inquiry.
“We must get to the truth. This is unacceptable in our country… This is shocking,” he said.
An inquiry would help get to the “real cause” of what had transpired.
“However, today is not an occasion for blame, finger pointing or recrimination. Today challenges us to restore calm and share the pain of the affected families and communities… It is a day for us to mourn together as a nation. It is also a day to start rebuilding and healing,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa earlier in the day sent his condolences to the families of the victims.
Mthethwa and National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega, accompanied by North West Premier Thandi Modise and Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, visited the police officers who have been monitoring the protests at Lonmin.