South Africa miners force president to quit May Day event

The protesters held up placards demanding a pay rise and chanted "Cyril must go"

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South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) president, Cyril Ramaphosa meets a crowd of supporters during a visit at Nomzamo informal settlement in Soweto, on September 18, 2021. – (Photo by LUCA SOLA / AFP)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was ushered from a May Day event on Sunday after angry miners stormed the stage where he was due to speak.

The protesters held up placards demanding a pay rise and chanted “Cyril must go” during a televised ceremony organised by the country’s largest union at a stadium in the northern town of Rustenberg. 

Police quickly pushed back the crowd, some of whom raised their fists or used hand gestures to demand money.

South Africa is the continent’s leading power but its economy has been hit hard by the Covid crisis, and unemployment is at a record 35 percent. 

Tension in the labour market has fuelled anti-foreigner sentiment and sporadic demonstrations.  

Dressed in his usual leather jacket in the colours of the ruling ANC party, the head of state attempted to address the miners but was greeted by boos.

He was quickly led away from the stadium by police and his security. 

The police told AFP they never commented on security issues concerning the presidency.

The Cosatu union that organised the event has more than two million members and is allied to the ANC. 

The mining sector, which is in decline, still makes up 8 percent of the national economy and employs 450,000 people. 

Miners often go on strike for higher pay and complain of exploitation by big firms.  

In 2012, police opened fire on striking miners killing 34 people in the worst police shooting since the end of apartheid. 

© Agence France-Presse

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