ANC heavyweight Cyril Ramaphosa – who is being nominated by supporters of President Jacob Zuma to be his deputy – has been named as authoring an e-mail that called on the eve of the Marikana shootings for action against striking Lonmin miners.
Sapa reported that advocate Dali Mpofu told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry of an e-mail in which Ramaphosa condemned protests by workers at the mine, describing them as criminal acts and calling for “concomitant action”.
“This [e-mail] was on 15 August at 2.58 pm, exactly 24 hours before the people were mowed down on that mountain,” Sapa reported Mpofu as saying.
“We have e-mails that were being exchanged between Lonmin management, government ministers [of mineral resources and the police] and at the centre is a gentleman called Cyril Ramaphosa,” Mpofu was quoted as telling the inquiry.
“He advanced that what was taking place [was] criminal acts and must be characterised as such. In line with this characterisation [Ramaphosa said] there needs to be concomitant action to address the situation.”
In a statement last night, Lonmin said that due to “the violence and loss of life in the period August 10 to 14”, it had “engaged with a number of stakeholders to ensure that the situation in and around Marikana was addressed in the appropriate manner”.
As it was a mining company and “not responsible for law enforcement”, it “stands to reason that the company, including members of its board, would communicate with the relevant stakeholders in government to ensure that they properly understood the company’s view of the situation on the ground to ensure a peaceful resolution of the matter”, the statement said.
“Lonmin’s action to engage with appropriate authorities of the state was simply part of a process aimed at achieving normality.”
Ramaphosa is a non-executive director of Lonmin. His Shanduka group owns 9 percent of the company through its 50 percent stake in Incwala Resources, Lonmin’s black economic empowerment partner.
While he has given no formal indication of his willingness to replace deputy ANC president Kgalema Motlanthe, speculation that he is keen to play a bigger role in the party has been rife for months.
He has been nominated by the ANC in Mpumalanga on a pro-Zuma slate that would keep Gwede Mantashe as secretary-general, have Jessie Duarte as his deputy (in place of Thandi Modise), and Baleka Mbete as ANC chairwoman, and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize as treasurer-general instead of Mathews Phosa.
The same list of names was put forward after a meeting of the branch at Zuma’s home in Nkandla earlier this month, the Sunday Times reported at the weekend.
If the speculations are true, however, Ramaphosa – who last month apologised on national radio for bidding R18 million for a buffalo and its calf while fellow South Africans lived in poverty – could find the path to political power very convoluted.
The SAfm interview also offered Ramaphosa the opportunity to reject categorically “outrageous” allegations on a website that he owned a company that was contracting labour to Lonmin but pocketing the bulk of workers’ wages.
The former struggle activist and National Union of Mineworkers leader is now best known as a capitalist, and – as chairman of the party’s disciplinary appeals committee – the man who sealed the fate of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.
Elected ANC secretary-general in 1991, he led the ANC in the negotiations that paved the way for the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
The height of his popularity in the ANC was in 1997 when he got the top number of votes for a place on the national executive committee. When he left politics for business, the word was he had been pushed, and speculation was that he would aim for a comeback.
Ramaphosa turns 60 on November 17. If he accepts nomination as deputy president, and his bid is not derailed, he would be well placed to step into top spot come 2017, with a shot at becoming South Africa’s president in 2019.