Archbishop of York gives comfort to SA mining families

The Ugandan-born Archbishop of York visited Rustenburg during his tour of South Africa. Photo: ITV News

Patience has rediscovered her faith. She clasps her fist and shakes with emotion as she sings hymns that she has not sung for years.

She has come to a special Sunday service to see Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who is in Rustenburg as part of a tour of South Africa. But it was the mine massacre at Marikana that forced her back into the arms of her local church.

"Our (political) leaders never came to see us after the shootings at Marikana. The church people did," she says.

Dr John Sentamu led prayers at the site of August's massacre in Marikana. Credit: ITV News

The shootings shook South Africa. To many people in mining communities, two minutes of gunfire seemed to undermine two decades of freedom. Yet the ANC government, which draws much of its support from poor black communities, has been silent in its search for solutions to the inequalities highlighted by the crisis.

Inside the vacuum, clergymen have been visible and active - many have been negotiating with mine owners on behalf of striking workers. Some local churches have reported growing congregations.

The Archbishop stood shoulder to shoulder with local communities at the service in Rustenburg. Credit: ITV News

Archbishop Sentamu was taken to the rocky outcrop where the massacre took place in August. He looked moved, he said prayers, he hugged the grieving. He told me how he was angered by the squalid conditions which many of the miners most endure, and he questioned the morality of the mine owners, demanding they do more for their staff.

He said the words that many South Africans want to hear. They just wished their politicians would say them too.