Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has cut short his attendance of the 32nd SADC Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, in order to visit Rustenburg this afternoon.
A dispute at the Lonmin Marikana mine in Rustenburg has claimed several lives since last week, culminating in the tragic shooting of armed protesting strikers yesterday.
“The President asked the new SADC chairperson President Guebuza of Mozambique and his colleagues the SADC Heads of State and Government to release him so that he can go and attend to the matters at home,” the Presidency said in a statement.
The President is concerned about the violent nature of the protest, especially given that the Constitution and labour laws allow enough avenues to deal with issues, and is sympathetic to calls for a commission of inquiry.
On Thursday, the President said: “We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence.
“We call upon the labour movement and business to work with government to arrest the situation before it deteriorates any further. I have instructed law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and to bring the perpetrators of violence to book.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of all who have lost their lives since the beginning of this violent action.”
According to a statement issued by the South African Police Service, police had embarked on extensive and unsuccessful negotiations to disarm and disperse a heavily armed group of illegal gatherers at a hilltop close to Lonmin Mine, near Rustenburg in the North West, However, police members were viciously attacked by the group, using a variety of weapons, including firearms.
“The Police, in order to protect their own lives and in self-defence, were forced to engage the group with force. This resulted in several individuals being fatally wounded, and others injured,” said the statement.
The crime scene, which covers a vast area, is currently being managed by senior officials from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and supported by an expert team of detectives and forensic experts.
The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Riah Phiyega, and members of her top management are currently at the scene, appraising themselves of the situation, which is still unfolding.
Accordingly, in order to allow the investigators to manage the crime scene, and to stabilise the situation, the National Commissioner will be holding a media briefing today.