Listening to their president, who had finally come to meet them after their mining community erupted in violence, the crowd was silent and subdued.
Jacob Zuma came to tell the men of the Marikana platinum mine in Rustenberg, South Africa, that there would be a full inquiry into how 44 people were shot dead by police during a labor dispute by police over the last two weeks, 34 in one clash alone last week.
It is the worst violence in post-Apartheid South Africa.
“At the time when I heard how bad the developments were, before knowing the extent of the damage, I had already decided to set up a commission investigating this so that we can get to the truth. It’s not just a commission that will investigate, but a judicial commission that will investigate legally so that we can get to the truth,” said Zuma to a crowd of about 2000 workers.
It was Zuma’s second visit to the region, after his failure to meet the miners during his first was heavily criticised.
Church leaders have called for calm in the charged atmosphere, and Zuma has promised the miners he will take their demands for a monthly wage of 1250 euros to the Anglo-American mine owners Lonmin.
But for Zuma’s ruling ANC there could be worse ahead, as the dispute is being driven by a non ANC-affiliated union that has broken away from the National Miners Union which it accuses of being in the government’s pocket, and not doing enough to protect their interests.