16 September 2012

South Africa: Zuma Must Answer for Sandf Deployment - Lekota

Police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters at a platinum mine where 45 people were killed over a deadly wage dispute that ... ( Resource: South African Police Raid Striking Miners

Johannesburg — President Jacob Zuma must urgently answer questions about the deployment of soldiers to Marikana, Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota said in Johannesburg on Sunday.

"We, the opposition parties..., demand an urgent and unequivocal reply from the president of this country, whether he or some adventurous underling is responsible [for the deployment]..."

At least a thousand soldiers were deployed in Marikana on Saturday night.

"It is not a simple thing to deploy armed forces among civilians," Lekota said.

It had the potential to threaten the country's stability.

Zuma, as the Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), also needed to say what preparatory steps the government had taken prior to the deployment.

The public had not been notified that the Marikana situation was threatening enough to justify SANDF intervention.

"We would have expected the president to tell the county if there was an imminent threat to national security," Lekota said.

He appealed to Zuma to urgently order the soldiers to return to their bases.

Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said on Saturday that the soldiers sent to Marikana included members of the air force, the army, and the military health services.

Lekota said the deployment of health personnel appeared sinister, as it implied that casualties were anticipated.

As such, he appealed to the miners and communities around Marikana not to carry traditional weapons or do anything that could act as a catalyst to the volatile situation there.

"There are people looking for an excuse to act irrationally ... [we ask you] not to provide them with an excuse."

Sunday marked a month since police opened fire on a group of protesters on a hill near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, killing 34 mineworkers and wounding 78.

Another 10 people, among them two policemen and two security guards, died the preceding week. A 45th person, a union shopsteward, was found dead weeks after the shooting.

Workers are demanding their wages be increased to R12,500 a month.

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