KwaZulu-Natal - Cyril Ramaphosa urged the South African business community on Wednesday to be more sensitive to the needs and welfare of workers, saying the Marikana shooting in which 34 miners were killed should serve as a wake-up call to the business community.
Talking to the media after addressing a business breakfast in Port Shepstone, the ANC deputy president and businessman said many entities, including the government and business, should have done something about the “appalling” living conditions of Lonmin miners.
The event prompted some commentators to draw parallels between the incident and the Sharpeville massacre in the 1960s. Ten people had been killed in separate attacks a few days before the shooting.
The shooting occurred after Ramaphosa, who owns shares in Lonmin, had exchanged e-mails with government officials calling for action against criminal activities that had characterised the strike.
He was criticised for calling for “the shooting” of miners, a charge he rejected, saying he was urging the authorities to clamp down on lawlessness.
Ramaphosa said Marikana pointed to the lack of “inclusiveness” and the need to fight for a future free of the negative things of the past and get rid of exploitation.
“Many entities should have done a lot more about the social conditions of workers. The accommodation of (mine) workers was appalling and it needs attention. We cannot have a situation where people are exposed to conditions like that,” he said.
However, the problem was not only in Marikana but also in areas such as farms where the business community needed to play a collective role in improving living conditions.
“Marikana should be seen as a wake-up call to many business entities. It is a turning point for all of us where businesses were not doing anything about actively improving the living conditions of workers,” he said.
He assured business leaders that the current ANC leadership elected in Mangaung would ensure that the country moved forward progressively, adding that the National Development Plan, of which he was deputy chairman, had mapped a 30-year vision for the country.
In a separate rally, where he addressed thousands of people at Umzumbe on the South Coast, Ramaphosa rejected any suggestion that he, instead of President Jacob Zuma, would lead the ANC election campaign in 2014.
“No one will lead the ANC campaign but Zuma, who will win the elections,” he said.
He also welcomed the decision of the ANC Youth League to embrace the newly elected leadership of the ANC, saying he “applauded” this position which showed a sign of “maturity” by the youth.
ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola, who shared the platform with Ramaphosa, declared that the youth league was fully behind the new leadership and was not suffering from the “Mangaung hangover”.
“I think we should all wait and see what the outcome of that is,” he said. - The Mercury