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Ramaphosa must answer for ‘premeditated’ Marikana killings

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa continues to be in the firing line over the killing of 34 Marikana mineworkers by police.

University of Pretoria professor and author Sakhela Buhlungu told a Numsa special congress in Johannesburg on Tuesday that Ramaphosa, who he said was part of the black capitalists in the mining industry, had many questions to answer.

He was referring in particular to a series of emails between Ramaphosa, chairperson of Lonmin's BEE partner, Incwala, and Lonmin executives. The emails allegedly showed that Ramaphosa had warned Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to come down hard on striking miners. Ramaphosa had also advised Minerals Minister Susan Shabangu that her "silence and inaction" about the happenings at Lonmin was "bad for her and government".

"There is no doubt [in my mind] that the hand of Cyril was there [in mineworkers' deaths]. Whether he says he was taken out of context, the fact of the matter is that he was involved in the killing of the Marikana mineworkers," said Buhlungu.

'Premeditated' killing
​Buhlungu described Marikana as a calculated use of brutal force. "Mortuary vans were ordered before the shooting [took place]. It's a premeditated [killing]," Buhlungu told the Numsa delegates shortly before they were shown a new DVD on the massacre.

Ramaphosa reportedly said at the time that his call for action against striking Lonmin workers and the subsequent death of 34 mine workers were not linked. He told CNN the emails in which he called for concomitant action against the strikers were a separate issue.

"Basically all it boils down to is that, prior to the killing of the 34 people by police guns, 10 people had died and some of them had died in the most brutal way. They had died in what I still see as a 'criminal' way. I was appealing to the authorities to take action to prevent further deaths."

A spokesperson for Ramaphosa, Steyn Speed, said on Wednesday: "These matters are currently before a judicial commission of inquiry. Mr Ramaphosa has provided the commission with a statement on these matters and also has indicated his willingness to testify before the commission."

At the inquiry
In his statement in May to the Farlam commission, Ramaphosa said his intervention just before the massacre was an attempt to call for "peace". He said he did not intend for the police to open fire on the miners the following day. 

He added: "The events of August 16 2012 were truly tragic, but I submit that the tragedy is not linked in any way to my engagement with government ministers, which was initiated by me in an endeavour to prevent further loss of life."

Read the full statement

Buhlungu also told Numsa's congress on Wednesday he was amazed by Cosatu's silence on the Marikana issue. He said Marikana happened because of the collapse of unions.

"Leadership on the ground became corrupt. Union leaders sold jobs to poor workers. The union [National Union of Mineworkers] has become so relaxed, sometimes corrupt, sometimes complacent to the point that it forgot the workers. No general meeting was organised. The organisation began to collapse. It did not collapse at the level of shopsteward because the office was there. That is why the issue of [who occupies] the office at Marikana became so intense. Workers started to lose trust in leadership. The leadership [of the NUM] was disrespected and lost credibility."

Conspiracy theories
​Buhlungu said he did not understand why people, instead of looking at what went wrong with the NUM, started spreading conspiracy theories as to why Marikana happened.

NUM spokesperson Lesibo Seshoka questioned Buhlungu's analysis, claiming it was influenced by white liberals.

"He [Buhlungu] is part of the liberals. His analysis is not a sociological analysis. Our education is poisonous. I think he ended up at the University of Pretoria because of his views. His long standing view is that the alliance must break. He is pushing for a powerless trade union movement. All positions of power come with responsibility and it comes with a bit of money. But you can't say Marikana happened because of money. When we lost 34 workers, we already had 10 workers who died previously. Now I want to know, how did money contribute to the death of those 10 people? If he was saying Marikana happened because of the discrepancies of what workers earn and what the bosses earn, loan sharks also played a critical role in what happened in Marikana," countered Seshoka.

Meanwhile, Numsa on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for the dismissal of national police commissioner Riah Phiyega for her role in the Marikana massacre. The union has also demanded that all politicians' and individuals' complicity in the murder of the Marikana miners be brought to book.

"We demand that the mining bosses accept full responsibility for the deaths of all the workers on the mines and that where appropriate, necessary prosecutions must follow. We appeal to Cosatu to move and organise for an independent worker controlled investigation into the killings, as resolved in the 11th congress of Cosatu," reads Numsa's resolution.

The resolution on Marikana also includes the demand for the immediate absolute withdrawal of charges against all miners arrested for some of the events on the day the workers were killed.

"If all the above fail, we commit ourselves to an international day of action on an appointed day, to demand that all the perpetrators be prosecuted."

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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