South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma Wednesday met with Lonmin mineworkers on a wildcat strike which saw 43 killed by police last week, in the worst day of violence since apartheid.
Zuma visited the mine the day after last Thursday’s bloodshed at the firm’s Marikana operations, near the mining town of Rustenburg, cutting short his visit to Mozambique for a regional summit.
On that trip, he visited the wounded in hospital and announced a commission of inquiry to investigate the killings, but strikers complained he had not met with them directly.
“I could only meet police leadership on the day, I could not come here as it was late but I managed to go to hospital where some of the injured workers related what happened to me,” Zuma told the miners.
The killing sparked national outrage with images caught on camera and broadcast around the world, exposing the heavy-handedness of the country’s police.
“Those saying our government gave orders to kill are misinformed because it will never be our policy to harm those we represent,” Zuma told the workers who had gathered near the scene of the massacre.
“That will never happen,” he said.
The London-listed Lonmin had threatned to dismiss the striking workers who had ignored orders to return to work and stage daily protests.
The workers are demanding a tripling of their wages. They say they earn 4,000 rand ($486, 400 euros) a month, though the company says their total compensation is around 11,000 rand a month.
“I hear that you are saying you won’t leave here until you get the money you want. I will also send a message to the employer that you demand 12,500 rand,” Zuma said.
“I haven’t met the employer so I don’t know his view on this”.
Official memorial services for the dead miners will be held on Thursday at the site of the massacre. Other services are planned in major cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town.