AFRICANGLOBE – The failure of South Africa’s national police force to control its officers or come up with a plan to handle a surge of angry protesters led to the killing of 34 striking miners three years ago, according to a report issued Thursday evening by the government.
The killing of the workers at a platinum mine in the Marikana area was the worst case of police violence since the end of apartheid in 1994. A pivotal moment, it cemented public frustration with the government and the problem of income inequality in South Africa.
For many South Africans, the episode showed that instead of representing the poor and downtrodden, as it has always claimed to do, the governing African National Congress was actively suppressing workers and siding with business interests.
The report, released after a televised address to the nation by President Jacob G. Zuma, exonerated senior members of the government of culpability in the deaths. Instead, it blamed the mining company, Lonmin, and the unions for conduct that contributed to the killings, which took place near Rustenburg in the North West Province.
A panel of judges appointed by Mr. Zuma soon after the killings delivered the findings of its nearly three-year inquiry to the president in March. Despite intense criticism from miners and the local news media, Mr. Zuma delayed the release of the report, saying he needed time to consider its recommendations.
On Thursday, Mr. Zuma said only that he would further study the report’s recommendations, which included carrying out an inquiry into the national police commissioner’s “fitness to hold office.”
Mr. Zuma’s muted response to the long-awaited report is unlikely to satisfy supporters of the victims or human rights activists who had pushed for a definitive conclusion to the killings.
“The Marikana incident was a horrendous tragedy that has no place in a democracy, where all citizens have a right to protest and where workers have the right to go on strike peacefully and negotiate working conditions with their employers, peacefully,” Mr. Zuma said.
The report absolved Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s deputy president since 2014 and a senior member of the A.N.C., of any responsibility in the chain of events that culminated in the killings.
Lawyers for the victims and their families had accused Mr. Ramaphosa, who sat on the board of Lonmin at the time of the killings and remains one of the richest businessmen in South Africa, of using his influence to press for a crackdown by the police.
The report acknowledged that Mr. Ramaphosa had used his longtime position in the A.N.C. to contact ministers dealing with the strike after attempts by other company officials had failed.
“He was a senior office-bearer of the African National Congress, and he knew the ministers and other key role-players in government,” the report said. “As a result, he had access to them and influence with them.”
But the panel of judges concluded that there was no evidence that his intervention had influenced the conduct of the police.
By: Norimitsu Onishi
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