It could not be ascertained whether North West’s premier, Supra Mahumapelo, was going to be allowed to visit the infamous Marikana koppie and lay wreaths there, amid tensions that continue to reign in the area.
Mahumapelo’s office announced his intention to visit the area just over a week after the ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was chased away.
Dlamini-Zuma never got the chance to set her foot on the ground where 34 striking Lonmin miners were shot dead by the police during a violent wage strike on August 16 2012.
She was disallowed by mine workers who appeared to be treating the grounds as sacred.
Miners who spoke to City Press in Marikana earlier today said Mahumapelo was going to receive the same treatment, adding that they were the owners of the area where their colleagues died.
The feeling on the ground was that Mahumapelo may have had second thoughts about visiting the area, given what happened to his comrade, Dlamini-Zuma.
He was also set to address the “peace prayer service” held in Wonderkop under the banner of one of the government’s Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal (RHR) programmes.
When he did not arrive, the media was told by his spokesperson Brian Setswambung that he had to make a U-turn back to Mahikeng at Swartruggens to attend to a pressing family emergency.
Setswambung said the premier was “at ease” and that there were no worries about his safety in Marikana.
He said Mahumapelo would return to Marikana on Reconciliation Day in December to lay wreaths and turn sod on the spot where a memorial will later be built in memory of those who died during the violent strike.
It was also announced that there would be no wreath-laying at the scene of the 2012 killings.
City Press understood that miners were waiting at the nearby Nkaneng informal settlement from where they were guarding the area and prepared to chase away any government official or politician who dared come close.
Meanwhile, the prayer service continued amid a poor turnout.
A small crowd – mainly women in church uniforms – occupied just a fraction of the seats inside a huge white marquee in Wonderkop.
Head of RHR Tebogo Ramashilabele said they were working on building relations with everyone in the area including mine workers.
“We are hopeful that next time we’ll have a full house, with miners in their hard hats [and] with peace and stability reigning,” he said.