State lethargy let Lonmin unrest turn to blood and bullets
The Times Editorial: On Friday, as President Jacob Zuma addressed the media on the Lonmin tragedy, he said that it was not a time for blame, finger-pointing or recrimination.
Friday, he said, was to "restore calm and to share the pain of the affected families and communities".
Zuma announced a commission of inquiry that would try to uncover what exactly happened on Thursday, when police opened fire on miners during a stand-off at an illegal strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine.
"We have asked relevant government departments, including the provincial government, to provide every possible assistance to the families during this painful and difficult period. The loss of life in this manner is unacceptable and we have to ensure that this never happens again."
Much has been written about Thursday's events at Marikana mine and the actions of the unions, mine management and the police.
Much will continue to be written in the days ahead as the international business community watches how the government deals with the violence that shocked the nation.
Ordinary South Africans will also be watching.
There are those who have called for mass resignations of the government ministers responsible formanaging the strike.
What last week points to is what has repeatedly been commented on - a lack of leadership and accountability.
This, unfortunately, will not be restored by an inquiry or any amount of navel-gazing.
What Zuma's inquiry will have to ask is how his officials could not control the situation better and assess the potential for destruction and loss of life after the strike had persistently shown signs of violence since it started.
Leadership is less about managing the aftermath of a problem than about the ability to control the crisis before it becomes a deadly and devastating tragedy, as at Marikana.