The lawyer representing injured and arrested miners at the Farlam probe says the deputy president must account for his actions in a court of law.
Advocate Dali Mpofu said on Tuesday that the responsibility of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the events at Marikana in 2012 extends to criminal liability.
The lawyer, who represents the injured and arrested miners at the Farlam commission, said he’ll be making this submission to the commission based on four premises: Ramaphosa’s actions or inaction; his state of mind, including his intention; causality; and the consequences of these.
Ramaphosa, who has been testifying at the commission since Monday, was a shareholder and nonexecutive director at Lonmin at the time of the unprotected August 2012 strike.
Security at the commission has been at an all-time high during Ramaphosa’s testimony, with a significant police presence that includes mounted police and armoured police nyalas, with rolled-up barbed wire ready to deploy from trailers.
Earlier, Advocate Heidi Barnes, the legal representative for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) accused Ramaphosa of not making an effort to find out what exactly was going on at the mine during the week preceding the massacre.
Ten people – including miners, Lonmin security officials and police officers – were killed in the week leading up to the massacre. On August 16 2012, police fatally shot 34 people and injured more than 70. Ramaphosa conceded that he had known people had been killed, but not the details.
“It seems you spent a great deal of time lobbying to characterise events as criminal and increase police presence,” Barnes said. “But [you] didn’t take time to find out what was going on.”
Not my problem
Mpofu later blasted Ramaphosa for not encouraging his Lonmin colleagues to engage with the strikers, given his strong negotiator background. Lonmin has been severely criticised for their inflexibility and refusal to speak to the strikers about their wage demands.
Ramaphosa had earlier agreed that the best solution to the unrest would’ve been for Lonmin to address the strikers. Ramaphosa also conceded that had Lonmin addressed the strikers on August 10 2012 when they approached the Lonmin offices, the subsequent loss of lives may have been avoided.
But Ramaphosa defended his inaction in this regard by saying that as a non-executive board member, it was not his role to engage with the strikers. “We had people on the executive dealing with these matters. As a nonexecutive director, we delegate all these powers, authorities and matters to the management team who are employed on a full time basis to deal with these matters,” he said.
Both Barnes and Mpofu criticised Ramaphosa for spending more time sending emails and making phone calls to Lonmin management and national ministers asking them to intervene, than finding out what was actually happening at the mine or encouraging his colleagues to negotiate.
However, Ramaphosa said his interventions were aimed at reducing further life loss. “I was being given information of people being killed and dying. In my mind, it needed to be stabilised. That stabilising in my view, would have led to negotiations,” Ramaphosa said.
Mpofu disregarded Ramaphosa’s supposed concern about the violence at Marikana and his reasons for contacting the ministers, saying that Ramaphosa had done this due to his financial interests. Ramaphosa’s company, Shanduka, held a 9% share in Lonplats in 2012.
“We are going to argue that your actions in this whole saga were motivated by your own financial interests,” Mpofu told Ramaphosa. “So this whole notion of yours, that you were intervening to stop criminality, to stop violence, is actually baseless, because the violence that resulted in the [deaths] of 10 people would have been avoided had you performed your duty, had you ensured Lonmin talked to the strikers.”
Mpofu added that Ramaphosa did this at the expense of the very people whose lives he was meant to transform as the chairperson of Lonmin’s transformation committee.
But Ramaphosa again told the commission that the only reason he intervened was to try put a stop to the loss of lives. “R300-million was invested by Shanduka into Lonplats by as early as 2011. Financial gain was not even part of it. We didn’t think we would recoup the investment,” Ramaphosa said.
Conflict of interest
Mpofu also accused Ramaphosa of having a conflict of interest due to his association with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), his position as a shareholder and Lonmin board member as well as being a member of the national executive of the ANC. Ramaphosa was one of the founders of the NUM and the union’s first general secretary in 1982.
“If you look at that web of relationships, you would accept that you were caught up in a cesspool of incestuous relationships in relation to the players,” Mpofu said, causing Ramaphosa’s legal representative Advocate David Unterhalter to object to his wording. Ramaphosa also took exception to the use of the word incestuous in this context.
Ramaphosa disagreed with Mpofu’s assertions, saying, “I don’t see what the unusual aspect of that is. We are human beings … we are meeting around a common purpose.”
“I would say that if someone is trying to help solve a situation, a situation which would either save lives [and] would advance the common purpose of everyone, it should never be seen as a conflict of interest,” Ramaphosa maintained.
Earlier in his testimony, Ramaphosa also admitted that all parties involved in the incidents at Marikana in 2012 should be held responsible, including himself and Lonmin.
“We bow our heads and accept that we did fail the people of Marikana,” Ramaphosa stated. “We all had a role to play and somewhere along the line we may not have fulfilled those roles as we should have done.”
Ramaphosa’s testimony was once again interrupted when miners wearing green Amcu shirts started shouting, “Murderer”, “He killed them” and, “He is a sellout, this man, for profit.” After being kicked out of the chamber, the group congregated outside the commission singing songs about “capitalists,” and shouting, “Voetsek man, Fokoff man”.
Ramaphosa’s testimony came to an end soon after this.