REACTION to the deployment of the SA National Defence Force to quell the unrest at Marikana in Rustenburg in the North West province was mixed yesterday.
“We are totally astounded and enraged by the reckless and apparently unauthorised deployment of the armed forces among the civilian population of the country in Marikana,” Mosiuoa Lekota, former minister of Defence and leader of the Congress of the People (COPE) said at a media briefing in Johannesburg.
Lekota called on the government to “urgently” order members of the army to return to barracks, saying the soldiers presence could “worsen the conflict”.
“Members of the armed forces are not trained to control civilians and to unleash them into such emotionally charged circumstances as exist in Marikana can easily result in dire consequences,” Lekota said.
He said the government should explain who gave the order to deploy the army in Marikana and insisted that President Jacob Zuma explain the move.
Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, called for the negotiation process to be given a chance to proceed.
“We appeal to the government to give negotiations a chance, we appeal to the miners to remain calm, not to do anything that could be used as an excuse by the security forces to act against them,” he said.
Azapo leader Nelvis Qekema accused the government of resorting to “strong arm tactics”.
“The government has run out of ideas on how to deal with the Marikana matter … deploying the army in Marikana could result in further loss of lives,” he said.
But the Democtractic Alliance (DA) insisted the deployment was necessary, saying it was in favour of the presence of the army in the area. “It is our view as an opposition party that the army must remain in Marikana for as long as the situation is unstable,” Mmusi Maimane, DA national spokesman, said.