Thursday

13th May 2021

Zuma tells EU he is 'in control' after mine masscare

South African leader Jacob Zuma has said he is in "full control" of the situation in South Africa after police shot dead dozens of mine workers last month.

Speaking alongside EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Wednesday (18 September), he said the Marikana mine massacre was "shocking" and "unexpected."

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He added that it could have happened in "any country" and that his rule is sound because he quickly launched a judicial commission of enquiry into events, however.

He also invited European companies to invest in South African water, railway and electricity infrastructure.

"We are in full control - that must give confidence to investors, because it [the Marikana massacre] happened in the background of very stable democracy and very stable rule of law. I think if those elements were not there, it would give serious concern to investors," he said.

The US-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) says 34 people died at the Marikana platinum mine in August when police used live ammunition against strikers armed with machetes, clubs and rocks.

A clash between rival trade unionists and police one week earlier saw 10 people killed.

The violence triggered strikes in foreign-owned mines across the country, costing some €420 million in lost output.

They also saw Zuma's populist opponent, Julius Malema, accuse him of "apartheid" in killing black workers for the sake of British business interests.

On Tuesday Marikana workers ended their strike after Lonmin, the UK-stock-exchange-listed firm which runs the mine, gave them a 22 percent pay rise.

The EU and Zuma in Brussels also agreed to hold a regular "human rights dialogue."

The first meeting - which will see mid-level EU diplomats question South African counterparts on rights concerns behind closed doors - is to take place by the end of the year.

HRW in a previous report said that "exploitative conditions" for workers in South Africa are a serious worry.

It also named police brutality, government corruption, Zuma's attacks on free speech and a culture of impunity rape of women as areas of concern.

For his part, Van Rompuy on Tuesday said Marikana was a "tragedy" and that South Africa needs to tackle "poverty and inequality."

But he added that his talk with Zuma had focused on trade and that the new human rights dialogue should not be seen as a sign that South Africa is a problem country.

"We will look at the situation of human rights not only in Europe and in South Africa but also in the rest of the world," he said.

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