Sunday Tribune

He could have averted bloodshed, but didn’t

The recent ‘apology’ by Cyril Ramaphosa in relation to the Marikana massacre was dishonest and disingenuo­us. He needs to disclose everything he knows, writes Peter Alexander


SOUTH Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has “apologised” for his actions in the run up to the Marikana massacre when police killed 34 striking mineworker­s on August 16, 2012. His supposed apology during a speech at Rhodes University on May 7 – reportedly followed advice by struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-mandela that he make amends and visit Marikana. But was it a proper apology? Ramaphosa only referred to “language” he used in e-mails to fellow Lonmin directors, which he said “may have been unfortunat­e” and “not appropriat­e”.

But, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever requested an apology for “language”. The concern is about his actions and their relationsh­ip to the killings.

Ramaphosa added that it was never his intention to have 34 mineworker­s killed, but this again skirts the issue. Nobody suggested he was responsibl­e for the 34 deaths, which followed after police opened fire on protesting miners and employees of Lonmin Mine in Marikana.

The argument is that his interventi­on made bloodshed more likely and that he could probably have stopped the killings had he acted differentl­y.

His critics (me included) are very clear that his failure to insist on negotiatio­ns led to the deaths.

Some fact checking is in order.

What the Marikana Commission found

The evidence in the Marikana Commission of Inquiry showed that Ramaphosa interceded at two specific moments.

We need to separate these if his culpabilit­y is to be accurately assessed. Of course, he may have been involved on other occasions, but we don’t know about them.

The first interventi­on was on August 12, 2012, when he contacted then minister of police Nathi Mthethwa, successful­ly lobbying him to send more police officers to Marikana.

In his recent weekend apology, Ramaphosa claimed:

Ten workers had been killed and my role was to stop further deaths.

In fact, at the time he spoke with Mthethwa, only two workers, both security guards, had been killed. The commission felt that, in contacting the police minister, Ramaphosa had acted responsibl­y, and this is not an unreasonab­le conclusion.

The second interventi­on was on August 15, the day before the massacre. We know about this through the flurry of e-mails that Ramaphosa authored and received. These don’t contain any evidence that he was acting benevolent­ly.

By now there were about 800 police on the ground at Marikana, so no need to lobby for more. The focus of his new role was to persuade Susan Shabangu, then minister of mineral resources, that the Marikana miners were not engaging in a labour dispute but “a dastardly criminal act”.

The significan­ce of this is that if the conflict could be redefined, decisive police action could be justified.

Ramaphosa was opposed to negotiatio­ns, which could have prevented further loss of blood. Instead, he supported the position of Lonmin and the SAPS, which would inevitably lead to deaths.

Nobody planned for exactly 34 deaths, but deaths were anticipate­d, and Ramaphosa’s supposed apology is silent on this.

The case against Ramaphosa

We don’t know the full extent of Ramaphosa’s knowledge about the operation planned for August 16. But, given his position as a director of Lonmin and willingnes­s to act in its interests, it’s unlikely he was unaware of “the plan” (which included use of lethal force).

Certainly, two of Lonmin’s vice-presidents, Barnard Mokwena and Mark Munroe, were in the loop before the operation got under way.

Thus, in my view there’s a prima facie case for charging them with being accessorie­s to murder.

Would they really have kept Ramaphosa in the dark? One reason we don’t know the answer is that Lonmin’s role was inadequate­ly investigat­ed by the commission. The company’s representa­tives, including Ramaphosa, also only spent short periods at the commission’s witness desk.

In my opinion, there’s enough evidence to charge Ramaphosa under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, a possibilit­y flagged at the inquiry by counsel for injured and arrested persons, Dali Mpofu.

It’s possible that because he was pushing for a murder charge against Ramaphosa, Mpofu lacked the time to pursue this lesser crime.

In one of his e-mails, Ramaphosa tells his Lonmin colleagues: (discussion with Minister Susan Shabangu) “I called her and told her that her silence and inaction about what is happening at Lonmin was bad for her and the government.”

Given that, as acknowledg­ed by the commission, Ramaphosa was a senior member of the governing ANC with enough weight to place pressure on the minister of police, the final words in the statement could be considered a threat. Whether or not Shabangu was influenced by Ramaphosa is not critical in terms of the law – making the threat (just like offering a bribe) is illegal.

Elsewhere, Ramaphosa seeks to convey that he was a friend of the workers. But, as chairperso­n of Lonmin’s transforma­tion committee, he was responsibl­e for the company’s failure to abide by its commitment to build 5 500 houses for employees, instead completing only three dwellings. Moreover, he benefited materially from the low wages that were the main grievance raised by the striking workers

Ramaphosa had been general secretary of the National Union of Mineworker­s and, later, as secretary general of the ANC he had led his party in talks that brought an end to apartheid. He was a skilled negotiator perfectly positioned to bring a peaceful settlement to the dispute, but instead he aligned himself with Lonmin and the police in their attempt to crush the strike using lethal force.

What needs to happen

For an apology from Ramaphosa to have credibilit­y, there should be full disclosure of everything he knows. This has not yet happened.

Furthermor­e, the following should happen:

• Full compensati­on to be paid, without further delay, to miners who were injured or wrongfully arrested, and to the families of workers who were killed.

• Adequate funding for investigat­ions by the Independen­t Police Investigat­ive Directorat­e into which police officers should be prosecuted for the Marikana massacre deaths.

• Charging the police whose case files are now with the National Prosecutin­g Authority.

• The immediate dismissal of Police Commission­er General Riah Phiyega, who was suspended after the commission found she lied during her testimony.

The Claassen Inquiry, appointed by President Jacob Zuma, recommende­d her sacking over six months ago, yet she continues to collect a large salary more than four years after a massacre in which she played a pivotal part.

Ramaphosa’s “apology” makes one wonder whether he’s in denial or just a desperate politician with presidenti­al ambitions. But his expressed regret was dishonest and disingenuo­us, and will not remove the stain that Marikana placed on his reputation.

* Peter Alexander is the author of various publicatio­ns on Marikana, most recently an assessment of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry published in the Journal of Southern African Studies. This article first appeared in The Conversati­on, a portal of well-researched opinion by experts and academics.

 ??  ?? Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa appears before the Farlam inquiry into the Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa appears before the Farlam inquiry into the Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012.

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