Poloko Tau and Gaye Davis

MARIKANA, the scene of one of the country’s worst post-apartheid massacre, has now turned into a political battlefield.

Various opposition politicians and a committee of ministers descended on the North West village yesterday as axed ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema again exploited the massacre for political gain. The Lonmin shooting incident, which claimed 34 lives and left 78 people injured, has spilled over to the corridors of the National Assembly and Cosatu.

Malema will accompany the miners’ leaders to the Marikana police station today to open criminal charges against the police, said his spokesperson Floyd Shivambu.

“As defenders of justice and fair process, we strongly believe that it is within the laws and Constitution of South Africa to hold all people who kill other people accountable within the confines of the law,” Shivambu said.

He said while Malema noted the establishment of a commission of enquiry into the massacre, such a commission would not exonerate the killers from the fact that they cost others their lives.

After visiting the mine yesterday, a high-powered opposition party delegation, led by Cope President Mosiuoa Lekota said it was “shocked” at the “callous manner in which lives were taken”.

Representatives of Cope, DA, IFP, UDM, ACDP, Azapo and the PAC told thousands of striking workers that they were there to “see for ourselves”.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Lekota maintained that they had the right to monitor President Jacob Zuma’s work to see if “everything is done according to the law”.

He said opposition parties wanted to hear the experiences of the mine-workers, unions, communities and the mine, adding they had already met police boss, General Riah Phiyega.

The Cope leader said the poor living conditions at the nearby Wonderkop informal settlement, where most miners lived, was “not the better life that Nelson Mandela promised people of South Africa. Living conditions must change around here”.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa shared Lekota’s sentiment. Lekota accused Zuma and other unnamed politicians of “disowning” the people, adding his group’s visit was “only the beginning”.

He was speaking at exactly the same spot where Malema cashed in on the apparent leadership vacuum over the weekend. Malema opportunistically used the tragedy to reassure the angry miners, while lambasting his rivals, including Zuma and ANC NEC member Cyril Ramaphosa. The fire-brand called on Zuma and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to resign over the tragedy.

He accused the police of killing 34 miners to protect Ramaphosa’s mine interests. Ramaphosa, who chaired the party’s National Disciplinary Appeals Committee that confirmed Malema’s expulsion, holds a stake in Lonmin.

Malema also attacked the NUM, a Cosatu affiliate, saying it was no longer a union serving workers interests but a company.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven yesterday said the labour federation strongly condemned Malema’s “outrageous” attacks on the NUM. “This is a scandalous insult to the mighty union of JB Marks, Moses Kotake … which has been fearless and unflinching in its defence of the most exploited section of the SA working class,” said Craven.