While President Zuma was chastising opposition parties for comparing the show of force in Marikana to Apartheid repression, police were denying Julius Malema the right to speak to the striking mine workers. It may just be the response Malema wanted; now he could convince us that if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. By GREG NICOLSON.
On Monday morning, like many other days in the Marikana conflict, Malema arrived at the scene of his political revival to address Lonmin’s striking workers. Up to 3,000 people were waiting in Wonderkop stadium to hear him speak. With his expelled comrades at his side, he was ready to walk past dozens of armed police and be ushered to the microphone as a VIP, a leader of the people.
But seasons have changed over the Lonmin mine: this time, dozens of armed police blocked the former ANCYL leader from entering the stadium. His entourage met a scrum of cops and was circled by a pack of journalists. The police commander gave him 20 minutes to leave or be arrested. “If you go [in], we’re going to arrest you,” he repeated.
Malema was reportedly denied access for being a risk of inciting violence. “Where is the violence? Wena, where is the violence?” a member of Malema’s group yelled at police as they were shepherded from the stadium.
“The committee says I am invited here,” Malema told reporters. If they wanted to arrest him, he said, “then they must arrest me… I don’t have anything. I don’t have a gun, nothing. I’m going to an approved meeting. ”
Malema wasn’t allowed to visit the nearby informal settlements and was escorted towards the N4 by about 10 police vans while a police chopper flew overhead. Some of the striking workers threw rocks at police as they made their eviction. Reportedly, Malema was barred from the stadium because he wasn’t given police permission to speak to the workers.
It would have been interesting to see what Malema said. While only 0.63% of employees reported for work in Marikana, the striking miners say they’re losing morale after police raided their homes in Nkaneng and a pay deal is said to be imminent. Malema might not have had the rousing reception he’s previously received.
He is due to address a press conference today with the Economic Freedom Fighters. He’ll tell us that his freedom of speech, movement and right to assemble has been violated for the benefit of one man – President Jacob Zuma. He’ll tell us that Zuma is plying the trade of the Apartheid government and he’s doing it to stay in power, damn the effect it has on South Africans.
There are enough parallels for his argument to hold water, or at least convince some doubters of the lengths Zuma will to go to stay president. As police forced Malema from Marikana, assigning such a ridiculously-sized force it can only be seen as intimidation, it’s hard not to recall the efforts the Apartheid state would put into preventing political gatherings.
Malema might be guilty of trying to incite a working-class revolution and is certainly guilty of using the Marikana massacre to further his own political aims. But there’s no evidence to show he will incite violence, despite a Hawks inquiry into the matter. Malema first arrived at Marikana after 44 people were killed, after which only one person was killed. There doesn’t seem to be anything tying him to that death.
Last week he stoked fears of a military revolt and a mining sector meltdown. But his address to the defence forces wasn’t anywhere near the threat the government thought it would be, and his call for rolling strikes in the mining industry could jeopardise the economy, but never did he say those strikes should be accompanied by violence.
His eviction from Marikana follows Zuma’s decision to restore order in the community. This weekend saw the police enter the miners’ settlement in force to confiscate weapons, a move interpreted as Zuma’s attempt to provide leadership on the matter and give the security institutions the power to do what they were probably too politically scared to do after they gunned down 112 of the striking workers.
While confiscating weapons may have a legal grounding, expelling Malema is much less clear. Police spokesman Brigadier Phuti Setati would only say, “With regard to the holding of meetings, the police, relevant authorities and organisers will all ensure that there is no deviation from agreements in terms of the Regulation of Gathering Act”.
If sending Malema from the scene was legal, the police must answer a number of questions. Why was he evicted from Marikana today when has he been allowed to address the workers on multiple occasions? Have police been ignoring the law on the previous occasions? Who gave the order to act on Malema now?
The police in Marikana increasingly look like the pawns in the politicians’ game, resigned to do what they’re told regardless of whether it bends or breaks the law (the killing of 14 at the Small Koppie and torture of miners in custody doesn’t look good either).
Until we get more answers, we should be asking whether our rights can be protected from the state. Do we have the right to address crowds, gather and demonstrate? If so, then why wasn’t Malema afforded his right?
It was denied, and he was probably laughing all the way back to his Sandton home about it. Malema’s been telling everyone for months that the president is a dictator. Now he has a shining example to prove his point.
Whether he succeeds will depend on how well he pushes one question – if Zuma strips one man of his rights, who’s next? DM
Expelled ANCYL president Julius Malema (C) leaves after arguing with police in Marikana, near Rustenburg, South Africa’s north west province, September 17, 2012. South African police stopped ANC renegade Malema from addressing striking miners on Monday as the government intensified efforts to contain labour unrest at mines in the world’s top platinum producer. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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