POLOKO TAU and Ntombi Ndhlovu\
A MEMORIAL service for the victims of the Lonmin Marikana massacre turned into a political rally with the government battered.
From faith leaders to politicians, President Jacob Zuma’s government was furiously lashed for last week’s carnage.
While proceedings were afoot, an unknown man stormed the venue, pushing the crowd, and grabbed a microphone on the stage.
“Zuma must resign. Julius is back in the ANC. Stand up, Malema. We welcome you in the ANC,” the man screamed before the microphone was grabbed from him and he was escorted from the stage.
But judging from the cheering that followed, the crowd agreed with him.
At the foot of the stage, grieving families wept and collapsed, prompting Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to pull on gloves and render medical help.
Yesterday’s service began with a visit to the scene of the shooting where families of the dead miners struggled to hold back tears as they walked the ground where their loved ones’ lives ended.
The group was shuffled away from the scene to a huge white
marquee where the memorial service was to be held.
Speaker after speaker condemned the ANC-led government and what they described as a “senseless” killing of those fighting for their rights.
Government ministers present looked lost as they sat in one of the front rows listening to the government being condemned for the killing.
Proceedings were disrupted when a group of men stormed the venue wearing Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union T-shirts and singing.
This resulted in the ministers’ leaving.
The men sang anti-National Union of Mineworkers songs while dancing with sticks.
North West Premier Thandi Modise was nowhere to be found when called upon to give a keynote speech.
Speaking on behalf of mourning families, Johannes Nkosabele said:
“Our children left to work here and now they have been killed when all they were doing was demanding money.
“It’s not right that people are killed by government; it’s very sad,” he said.
In Joburg, a solemn national anthem captured the grief of a nation in mourning perfectly yesterday.
The song was being sung at a memorial service at the Johannesburg City Hall.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, Joburg mayor Parks Tau and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi were present.
Elizabeth Mathaba arrived at the service from Klipspruit, Soweto, in her Sunday best.
The 60-year-old granny doesn't know any of the fallen men who lost their lives fighting for better salaries, but said she felt she had to attend the memorial service to reflect and to pay her respects.
Mathaba said she could not believe her eyes when she saw the horrific events unfold on TV.
She had switched to her favourite radio station for confirmation and still she could not believe it.
“It was like Sharpeville all over again,” she said, cradling a candle in her hands.
Initially, she thought the dead lying on the ground were people trying to duck the hail of bullets being fired by police.
“I am a mother and grandmother. I feel for the families who lost their loved ones.”
In an ironic twist of events, the SAPS Brass Band rendered musical items that filled the overcrowded hall with mixed feelings – a cross between jubilation and bereavement.
National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni rebuked political leaders he said were exploiting the tragedy to further their own agendas at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung.
“We have lost the heart to relate to each other,” said Laurence Saville, president of the Joburg Chamber of Commerce, adding that an outpouring of outrage should have been evident from the first death and not after the death of the 34 miners.
“The men who died were not captains of industries, but they had names, wives and children.”
Mokonyane asked for sensitivity all round. “Someone lost a sweetheart and a breadwinner of the family,” she said.
More than 200 candles were lit from one hand to the another, to send off in peace the spirits of those who lost their lives during the unrest in Marikana.
“We will never forget,” said Mathaba.