EXPELLED ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema last Saturday blamed the ANC leaders for the massacre of 34 miners and the wounding of hundreds at the UK owned Lonmin Mine in Marikana, in the north west of South Africa.
Malema was addressing a crowd of thousands in Wonderkop township, where police opened fire on protesters last Thursday.
Last Friday, South African President Jacob Zuma cut short his trip to a South African Development Community (SADC) summit in Mozambique to join other officials at the site of the shootout that left 34 people dead, almost 80 injured and over 250 arrested.
Zuma held a press conference at a centre outside Marikana township and announced a commission would be set up to investigate the root of the violent attack and killings.
He has now declared a week of mourning throughout South Africa.
But on Saturday, Malema said senior ANC government leaders were responsible for the massacre.
He said he and other former ANC Youth league (ANCYL) leaders were in solidarity with the striking miners because the government and police had turned their backs on them.
Malema alleged protesters were killed because Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal (NDCA) chair, owns shares in the Western Platinum mine.
He said police had no authority to use ammunition even if miners did fire the first shots.
The former ANCYL leader also called for Zuma and Mthathwa to step down, saying Zuma had presided over the crisis.
Melama’s call was met with loud applause from many who attended the gathering.
Closing his address, the fiery Malema encouraged miners to continue striking until their demands are met.
After the meeting miners dispersed to Lonmin Mine’s private holding cells where they claimed other miners were being detained.
Protesters said they would also visit their injured colleagues in local hospitals.
Last week on Friday, some 3,000 rock drill operators went on strike.
It was initially claimed rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was to blame for the strike, but mineworkers soon revealed they were demanding salary increases.
Violent clashes erupted within 24 hours, killing eight mine employees and two out of the hundred police officers deployed to the area.
Attempts by union leaders, Lonmin mine management, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to end the violence proved futile.
On Thursday, clashes between protesters and police killed 34 miners and injured 78 others.
Footage in which police used live ammunition to disperse crowds left many outraged.
Malema was expelled from the ANC in April, after he made comments that Zuma had turned the party into an unbearable dictatorship.
Malema failed to convince the party’s NDCA to turn the expulsion around in May.
He has vowed to make a return to the party at its national elective conference in December and is convinced Zuma will be denied a second term to govern the ruling party.
Residents of Marikana have called for the immediate release of 259 workers arrested during the clashes between protesters and the police last Thursday.
Women protesters, who joined the strike this week, demonstrated outside the mine on Saturday and demanded their husbands be released.
Leaders representing mineworkers said some protesters were forced to flee their homes because police were searching for them.
Leaders claim those arrested were locked in one of the mine’s units and were being tortured by the police.
But police spokesperson Captain Dennis Adrio strongly disputed the allegations, saying suspects were locked in police cells and would appear in the Rustenburg Magistrates court today (Monday 20th).
Striking mineworkers vowed to only return to work once their colleagues are released and when management at Lonmin agree to negotiate salary and employment conditions with them.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers has expressed condolences to the families of the victims who died at Lonmin and regret this loss of life.
The NUM maintains that the loss of life was unnecessary and violence should never be allowed to replace dialogue.
The NUM further maintains that it is not in a clash with any organisation at Lonmin but that there are concerted attacks on its membership at the platinum producer.
The background to the violence at Lonmin lies in the companies undermining bargaining processes and structures. This trend has its roots at Impala Platinum where the company unilaterally adjusted wages for certain categories of employees leaving others out.
The NUM said that ‘This led to some elements finding a loophole to exploit forces of violence.
‘Lonmin followed suit. Ignoring an existing collective agreement, the company undermined the bargaining process by unilaterally offering an allowance of between R750-250 to rock-drill operators outside the bargaining process.
However, the NUM continued to condemn the masses saying: ‘It is worrying that violence is increasingly becoming a culture of South African society at large where people out of dialogue are in favour of violence and destruction of property.
‘We have seen instances where communities protest over lack of service delivery but destroy the very infrastructure that they already have such as schools, libraries etc.
‘It has become part of the South African culture where other people eliminate others because they are either a political threat or due to the fact that they have information about them on corruption.
‘The various social challenges that the country faces such as the ever-increasing number of informal settlements next to mining areas; high unemployment; the continuous existence of single sex hostels; the increasing number of the working poor exacerbated by the continuous existence of the apartheid wage gap and tribalism would, if not curbed, result in large scale disintegration of the South African society.
‘Furthermore, the high levels of indebtedness of the workforce and the blacklisting of workers by credit bureaux exacerbate the situation as more workers look for shortcuts to having money.
‘The NUM argues that failure to comply with transformation targets as well as polices such as the mining charter and the social labour plans are detrimental to the mining industry. If the captains of the industry were to comply, there could be minimal social challenges which will in turn yield positive results for them.
‘There are huge weaknesses in our law enforcement such as defocused intelligence as well as inconsistencies in law enforcement. The NUM is worried about the high levels of corruption in the system where dockets disappear.
‘The NUM believes that the Chamber of Mines for example has to take full responsibility for the challenges in the mining industry as many of them are due to their inaction.
‘As a way forward, the NUM appeals to all workers to go back to work and for the law enforcement agencies to crack down on the culprits of the violence and murders. The union further appeals to the authorities to ensure successful prosecution of those arrested.’
The mineworkers have however decided to continue with their strike action.
The rest of the working class should join the miners in a general strike to bring down the current ANC government that is running capitalism for the bosses.
A workers and small farmers government must be brought in that will nationalise the mining and other major industries under workers control, give the land to the rural poor and nationalise the banks.
The time has come to complete the revolution that began with the freeing of Mandela by transforming it into a socialist revolution to put an end to capitalism.