Zuma takes off gloves

President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

President Jacob Zuma is expected to announce extraordinary security measures to deal with the continuing illegal strikes on the platinum mines in North West.

Stopping short of declaring a state of emergency, Zuma will brief the ANC's national executive committee meeting today about the broader plan to bring stability to the mining sector, before addressing the nation on what steps the government will take to restore stability to the mining sector.

It is expected that a high-level security clampdown in the platinum belt of Rustenburg will be announced, including the possible arrests of high-profile instigators.

The Times has learnt that a special police task force, backed by the army, is expected to be announced and will move into the area as soon as this weekend.

The security clampdown will forbid miners from carrying dangerous weapons, marching to mining houses and gathering without permission.

Zuma told the National Assembly yesterday that the government would soon act against those who fuelled tensions on the mines.

"It can no longer be accepted. You know that it's not just the miners striking, it is also some people of some description who are going instigating miners to operate in a particular way. We are looking into that and we are going to be acting very soon," he said.

As Zuma took a tough stance it emerged last night that Lonmin, whose Marikana platinum mine is at the centre of the conflict, had made striking workers a wage offer that is to be tabled this morning.

Zuma earlier issued an indirect warning to expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema that he might face the consequences of instigating strikes by miners.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said: "President Zuma has said that he is aware of people outside of the labour sector who are inciting workers and that action will be taken against them."

The Hawks are already investigating Malema's alleged involvement in tender irregularities.

Asked yesterday about the possibility of Malema's arrest, Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela said if and when an arrest were made, the first person who would know about it would be Malema.

"Only then will the South African public be informed," he said.

Floyd Shivambu, suspended ANC Youth League spokesman, said last night that Malema and his ''economic freedom fighters'' would not be intimidated.

''As economic freedom fighters and revolutionaries we will never stop providing political support to all mineworkers. We will never be intimidated by threats of action by people who only think of illegal and illegitimate actions,'' he said.

Malema has been crisscrossing North West and Gauteng mines over the past two weeks, addressing disgruntled miners and urging them to remain steadfast in their demand for a R12 500 salary. He has advised them to go on a five-day national strike every month until their demands are met. He has also called on them to demand the resignation of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Events at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, coupled with his actions, have left mine bosses, international investors and senior figures in the ANC and in the government alarmed over the state of a key sector of the economy.

National Planning Commission Minister Trevor Manuel yesterday called Malema an "opportunist".

He said: "There's nothing militant about insulting the president and government. And I noticed that when the chap addresses soldiers, there were more journalists there."

Manuel hinted that Malema might top the agenda at this weekend's ANC national executive committee meeting.

Some within the ruling party are urging that Malema be charged with incitement.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesman Theto Mahlakoana called for Malema's immediate arrest.

Labelling him a "power-hungry reject", she said Popcru was angered by Malema's "continuous dangerous actions".

"We are aware of his plot to address police. We have received calls from our members saying that they are to be addressed by Malema. We are concerned by this because we do not know what his modus operandi is when it comes to the police.

"The police must not turn a blind eye to Malema's utterances. They must arrest him for inciting violence and instability," she said.

Malema has also irked the state's security machinery through his decision to address about 100 of the 1300 soldiers who have been suspended for taking part in a protest action outside the Union Buildings in 2009, which turned violent.

All military bases were placed on high alert when it was learned that he was planning to address the soldiers.

Earlier yesterday, COPE MP Papi Kganare described Malema as an "an uncontrollable Polokwane political Frankenstein" created by Zuma.

But Zuma denied he was responsible for Malema's behaviour, saying: "I shouldn't be blamed for somebody who has some characteristic of his own. It's not my fault. I never participated in the production of such a person."

SANDF spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga said the military had yet to receive instructions.

Police spokesman Brigadier Phuti Setati said that they were not aware of plans for additional security measures.