/ 3 June 2022

Marikana victims demand an apology and R1-billion from Ramaphosa

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Women from Wonderkop informal settlement hold placards as they march to the koppie in Marikana near Rustenburg on August 16, 2020. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP) (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

Nearly a decade later, the grief over the Marikana massacre was still palpable as mineworkers and the widows of those slain gathered outside the Johannesburg high court on Thursday. 

The miners are continuing their civil cases against Cyril Ramaphosa, who, at the time, was a non-executive director, asking the court to hold him liable for the events of 16 August 2012, when 34 mineworkers were gunned down by the police during a strike.

This case was postponed in September last year after the then presiding judge, Colin Lamount, recused himself. It was last year when the Mail and Guardian reported that Lamont withdrew from the case after disclosing that he had shares in Sibanye-Stillwater.  

On Thursday the new judge, Fritz van Oosten, said the civil matter would resume on 10 June. 

The main arguments on Thursday focused on Ramaphosa’s communication with government officials and Lonmin’s management. Both parties delved into the email correspondence that the mineworkers claim was the trigger for the massacre. 

In the hearing Ramaphosa’s defence team, led by advocate Tim Trengove, argued that statements made by Ramaphosa in an email to Lonmin’s management in 2012 did not suggest any unlawful conduct and only identified criminal problems.

Trengove quoted Ramaphosa’s email as saying, “I’ve had discussions with the DG [director general] in each case have characterised this as not an industrial relations issue but a civil unrest/ destabilisation/ criminal issue that would not be resolved without political l intervention and needs this situation stabilised by the police or the army.”  

But emails read out by advocate Dali Mpofu said that then mineral resources minister, Susan Shabungu, only referred to the protest as criminal after Ramaphosa’s communication with her. “Because of one thing and one thing only the intervention of Mr Ramaphosa, she agrees that what we are dealing with is not even a hybrid again but a criminal act,” argued Mpofu. 

Mpofu represents the 328 mineworkers that filed the lawsuit against Ramaphosa and said they want him to apologise to the victims and their families of the massacre. He did apologise in 2017 at Rhodes University for the language he used in his emails and how the events unfolded.

Although the court case was virtual, the mineworkers and the Marikana widows gathered outside the court chanting songs of liberation and vengeance as they demanded justice.

One of the mineworkers, Mzoxolo Magidiwana described the agony that haunts him more than nine years after the massacre. 

“We are here to compel Ramaphosa to have his day in court and force him to apologise. We have not forgiven him for being involved in causing the violence we encountered. Ramaphosa does not care about workers. If he did these things would not happen,” said Magidiwana.

“I am still working at the mine and things are still difficult working for Sibanye mine. That day is still in my heart and scenes from the massacre continue to replay in my mind.” 

Nomzamo Zondo, executive director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri)  and the lawyer representing 36 of the families, spoke on behalf of the widows of the deceased miners.

She argued that the families believed Ramaphosa incited the violence that led to the massacre yet he has failed to provide them with an unconditional apology.

“The one thing about this massacre is the fact that the first 17 people were killed in less than 12 seconds then another 17 were killed in less than 11 minutes. But in the 10 years since the massacre there is very little to show in terms of justice. But in those 12 minutes lives were destroyed and that remains constant for the families till today,” said Zondo 

“The massacre had a ripple effect — many relatives lost their unborn babies and parents of the deceased died after hearing about the tragedy.”

Zondo said that no monetary value would compensate for the chaos and the grief caused by the massacre in the lives of the families and surviving mineworkers. 

“That chaos needs to sit somewhere and someone must carry the loss and unfortunately for most of the time that has been carried by the families,” she said.

In 2018 the M&G reported that R170.7-million was paid to victims of the Marikana massacre. Seri demanded R1.5-million for each of the 36 families it represented.