New York - President Jacob Zuma says the mining unrest
in his country that captured international attention following the police
killing of 34 striking miners will be resolved through negotiation and is not a
symptom of the pressing inequalities brimming to the surface nearly 20 years
after the end of apartheid.
Zuma told The Associated Press in an
interview on Wednesday that the violence at the Lonmin [JSE:LON] platinum mine in
Marikana should not be viewed as "the kind of incident that will be a
common occurrence in South Africa, because it's not."
"I know that some people feel that the picture was very
bad - which is absolutely true - that maybe some people say this may be
reminding us of the old days. But the difference is that during the apartheid
system, where these kind of occurrences were very often, you had a wrong system
which was a violent system," Zuma said.
"This time we have a
democratic country with a very clear constitution, where the circumstances are
totally different than what it was during the apartheid days and you cannot
therefore today think that this kind of action will happen again because we
have got checks and balances in our democracy."
The trouble at the Lonmin mine began on August 10 and ended
up with 45 people dead. On August 16 police opened fire on demonstrating
strikers killing 34 of them and wounding 78 in the worst state violence since
apartheid ended in 1994. It traumatised the nation of 48 million, raising
questions about the how much the poorest of the poor have benefited since the
end of white rule.
While bloody 5-week strike at the Lonmin mine was resolved
with workers gaining as much as 22% in pay hikes, strikes have now spread to
other, mostly gold, mines around the country and workers are increasingly
rejecting their own unions and choosing their own representatives to press
demands directly with mining companies.
"What you see in other mines was, in fact, influenced
by this particular strike and it has also been influenced by the manner in
which the resolution has been undertaken, whereas the unions that were in the
forefront in this case because of the circumstances were not necessarily in the
forefront. So the workers, the churches everybody was participating in this and
precisely because of what had happened I think you then had a kind of
resolution that was taken that has influenced some other miners to go on
strike," said Zuma, calling those strikes "illegal."
But he said he believed these new strikes would, like the
Marikana strike, be resolved through negotiation and that would happen rather
The strikes do pose a particularly thorny problem for Zuma,
raising questions about his leadership just as he prepares for a crucial
government party congress in December which will decide whether he gets another
term as leader of Africa's richest economy.
Despite promises by the ANC to redress the inequalities that
remain in the wake of apartheid, the country has become the most unequal nation
on Earth with only a handful of black billionaires joining a small white elite
which continues to control the economy dominated by mineral resources and
Zuma, however, denied the strikes revealed the startling
inequalities that remain in post-apartheid South Africa, saying it was a
longstanding problem that the government was working hard to address.
"From our point of view, whilst the inequalities are
there we are dealing with them," Zuma said. "We are aware that it is
a problem but it's not a problem that has arisen now. We are dealing with what
has happened the legacy of apartheid and I think we've moved very far to
address those kinds of questions."
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