Zuma defends police conduct at Marikana

President Jacob Zuma says when officers shot and killed 34 miners they were protecting people's lives.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has defended the conduct of the police at Marikana suggesting that when officers shot and killed 34 miners, they were protecting people's lives.

The president was addressing several thousand people at the conclusion of a Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring Programme visit to the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)'s Soshanguve campus.

The president and several deputy ministers paid a visit to the institution as part of the programme.

The police killed 34 miners in Marikana in 2012 and the president says he will release the report into the killings by the end of the month.

In August 2012, 34 miners were gunned down by the police at Lonmin's Marikana mine during a labour protest.

Ten people were also killed in the days leading up to the shooting including a mineworker, strikers, two Lonmin security guards and two policemen.

An inquiry was established by the president to investigate if the police were justified in using lethal force.

The inquiry sat for 293 days and heard testimonies from 50 witnesses about the violence that broke out at the North West platinum mine.

He was three-quarters of the way through his prepared speech, when he digressed to comment on the violent nature of protests at the campus.

"We the don't want police to use violence because they are stopping violence."

But when a man in the crowd shouted out that the police had killed the Marikana miners, Zuma had this spontaneous response.

"Those people in Marikana had killed people and the police were stopping them from killing people."

While Zuma made no further mention of Marikana in his speech, the comment has revealed the president's position on the matter.

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At the same time the president has likened the conduct of the Economic Freedom Fighters in Parliament to violent protestors who burn cars.

Zuma says when protestors burn cars and behave violently; they don't understand what democracy is all about.

He says "these people" need help.

The president has urged the TUT students to protest peacefully.