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Can Zuma survive Marikana?

The confusing turn of events following the mining 'massacre' raises serious questions about South Africa's leadership.
Last modified: 2 Sep 2012 20:19

It has been a dramatic few weeks.

First 10 people are killed - two police officers, two security and six striking mineworkers at Lonmin Platinum Mine on Marikana. Then 34 striking miners are killed when the police opened fire on striking miners demanding higher wages.

Following what has been since dubbed the 'Marikana massacre', The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) charged the miners 270 striking miners (and not the police) for murder and attempted murder.

Lawyers representing the arrested mine workers asked President Jacob Zuma to intervene, but the president’s office says he won’t.

But less than 24 hours after the announcement, the NPA calls a press conference to say charges against all 270 miners have been provisionally dropped pending an investigation.

Confusing developments

It has been a lot to take in for people watching from the sidelines, and confusing. The situation has highlighted weaknesses in the country’s leadership structure, and has allowed personalities like expelled youth league leader Julius Malema to capitalise on it.

It also illustrates how the NPA and the justice ministry are not working together on this particular matter.

To add fuel to the fire, prosecutors used an apartheid era law to charge the miners. The law was used by the white-minority apartheid regime to crack down on its black opponents, and at the time was opposed by the now governing African National Congress (ANC).

To say South Africans were perplexed is an understatement - many remain confused at the bizarre turn of events.

So for now charges have been provisionally dropped – which is what most South Africans wanted I suspect.

But workers at Lonmin Platinum mine are refusing to go to work until they get a salary increase.

Pressure on Zuma

Meanwhile as of Sunday, September 2, an unprotected strike at Gold Fields' KDC East mine near Johannesburg is continuing - workers on the night shift have refused to go down the shaft.

It is worrying investors and putting more pressure on the Zuma administration.

The ANC has an elective conference in December this year and Zuma wants a second term as party leader. Those who do not want him to get it have used the crisis in Marikana to discredit him and paint him as a weak leader.

Who knows if it will work.

Jacob Zuma has survived other challenges before – can he do the same this time?