ANC heavyweight and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed as “completely outrageous” and “ludicrous” allegations that Lonmin mineworkers were subcontracted to a company he owned and that he paid them only half their wages, pocketing the rest.
The allegations are contained in an article by one Arthur Mackay posted on a website, www.marikana-truth.com, which has apparently gone viral.
In it, Mackay alleged, among other things, that the Marikana mineworkers’ wage was already at the R12 500 they were demanding.
“They say they are subcontracted by a company owned by billionaire South African oligarch Cyril Ramaphosa. He only pays them R5 400 or less and pockets the rest paid out by Lonmin,” Mackay claimed.
“If this is so then agreeing to the workers’ demands would cost Lonmin nothing and the whole dispute is between the workers and Cyril Ramaphosa.”
Mackay went on to accuse Lonmin of placing Ramaphosa’s “private interests above those of its common stockholders and is neglecting its fiduciary duties. It is also leaving itself open to litigation”. But speaking on SAfm on Thursday morning, Ramaphosa rejected the claims.
“This is a serious allegation and quite a sensational one for that matter - the truth is neither Shanduka nor I own a company involved in labour broking - because that is precisely what the allegation is.”
Ramaphosa, who founded the Shanduka Group in 2001 as a black-owned investment holding company, and of which he is executive chairman, said his company’s only involvement with Lonmin was as a shareholder.
The company had invested R300 million for a nine percent stake. Ramaphosa said this investment was now “completely underwater, almost lost”, due to loss in value. Labour broking was something “we would never do”, he said.
“Why would we go and rob workers, form a company like that take the money and pay workers half? It is completely outrageous,” he said.
Responding to further allegations in the article, Ramaphosa said that after investing the R300 million a vendor-financing arrangement was made with Lonmin to the tune of R2.5m. This was “very common” practice and “as good as going to a bank”. It was “nothing like a sweetheart deal”, said Ramaphosa.
Programme host Xolani Gwala told Ramaphosa “a lot of fingers of blame” were pointed in his direction as an ANC leader and former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, who was aware of the conditions mineworkers endured and who “should be a catalyst for change”. “That is a fair statement to make,” Ramaphosa said.
As a minority shareholder he sat on Lonmin’s board, and articulated views “aligned with what would be of great interest to our people”.
“Some of the good being done by the company, which is not known, happens of course because (of the views) articulated by some of the black board directors.
“There are three of us there and we are actually on the side of our people,” he said.
He said he had been greatly saddened and depressed by events at Marikana and the lives lost - and believed it marked a turning point for the mining industry.
However, it wasn’t possible to “wave a magic wand” to bring about change overnight.
“I am convinced Lonmin will be a different company after this,” he said.
“Transformation is difficult in the mining sector, it is a challenging task - but it is underway,” he said.
“The government is quite determined to see mining company’s transform.”
He believed workers needed and should be paid a fair wage and work under “good conditions”. Their demands were reasonable considering the work they did under dangerous conditions.
Marikana should be a “turning point where mine owners don’t opt for easy solutions, such as the living out allowance that absolved them of the responsibility of properly accommodating their workers. The migrant labour system also needed to change, he said.
Ramaphosa, who has been tipped for possible nomination as one of the ANC’s top leaders when it comes to the party’s elections at its Mangaung conference in December, took flak from a number of callers.
He also apologised for bidding millions for a buffalo bull at an auction, saying it was “a mistake” and something he regretted doing.
He said he had been chastised by some of his “good comrades” for bidding what he said was “an excessive price in a sea of poverty”.
“I apologise to people who were offended. I am humble enough to say so,” he said, adding “the damage has been done”.