Centurion - Protesters repeatedly howled at Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as he concluded his testimony at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday.
“I deeply regret the deaths of all the people that died at Marikana. I deeply regret that,” he said.
A group of men sprang from their seats in the Tshwane council chambers in Centurion, where the inquiry is holding public hearings, and interjected. “You killed them. You killed them for profit. You are a sell-out. Capitalists are using you,” shouted the group of men.
“Paying R18 million for a buffalo while people are hungry in Venda… You must be charged for murdering African people. This man is a buffalo.”
The chairman of the inquiry, retired judge Ian Farlam, ordered the protesters to leave the room.
Earlier in the hearing, Ramaphosa was accused of using his political connections to influence the killing of the striking miners in Marikana in 2012.
Advocate Dali Mpofu said Ramaphosa was asked to intervene and flew to Cape Town to meet ministers Susan Shabangu and Nathi Mthethwa to pressure them to “miscategorise” the events at Marikana as criminal acts and deploy more police.
“For this, I am going to argue that you are held criminally responsible, alongside those who pulled the trigger, as well as police minister and police commissioner. Had you insisted that Lonmin negotiated with striking workers, lives could have been saved. We are going to argue that you be charged in the local court and the international criminal court,” Mpofu said.
Mpofu said Ramaphosa pressured police action, knowing of police brutality as well as the “shoot to kill” and “shoot the bastards” approach that had been mooted. Yet he saw fit to characterise the events of Marikana as criminal.
But Ramaphosa denied this, saying the police minister told him top officers would speak to their people on the ground and never indicated what action would be taken. He said he expected police to go about their duties and stabilise the situation in Marikana.
Mpofu said Ramaphosa’s “miscategorisation” of the action of the workers pushed police to apply the brutality normally reserved for criminals. “It became important for you to categorise the striking miners as criminals to alert police that they were dealing with criminals,” Mpofu said.
He said Ramaphosa should have refused when asked by the management to intervene at political level. He should have insisted that the uprising in Marikana was an industrial action, but the deputy president did not do so as he was concerned about his investments, according to Mpofu.
“The root of the problem was an industrial action, but you and Lonmin told the ministers that this was a criminal act. You did this because you wield an enormous amount of power. You ignored the principles of negotiating in exchange for a financial gain. You sold out,” Mpofu said.
He submitted that Ramaphosa’s relationship with the politicians and government officials placed him at a point of conflict of interest. Mpofu persisted that Ramaphosa used his influence, while the deputy president stood his ground in the heated cross-examination.
“You don’t raise temperatures with me because I will raise mine higher,” said the advocate. Both men continued to frustrate each other - Ramaphosa unhappy with the line of questioning and Mpofu with the deputy president’s refusal to give the answers he was looking for.
He said the deputy president did not act within reason, because he was protecting his financial interests, as chairman of Shanduka, which had shares in Lonmin. Mpofu said the fact that the deputy president argued he advised against dismissal of workers and favoured negotiations as a way to end the dispute was baseless.
“All the miners wanted was for Lonmin to talk to them. The access that you had to politicians could have been used to get Lonmin to negotiate with the workers. Negotiating with them did not necessarily mean giving them the R12 500 they wanted.”
Ramaphosa, who had a torrid time facing Mpofu from the witness chair, rejected Mpofu’s statements and said his actions were not about black economic empowerment but saving lives. He said he had flown to Cape Town to attend to other matters and not for the Marikana talks.
“When I reported to the ANC I had no idea how the party was going to intervene and was simply informing them, as the ruling party. We were acting for a common purpose because people were dying. I went to the ministers to ask that police should act in an appropriate way and do their job and put an end to loss of lives.”
After concluding his second day on the witness stand, Ramaphosa told reporters that he felt relieved.
“My heart goes out to the families (of those) killed. One feels very sad and sorry that their husbands lost their lives. One hopes they find peace and one day will find closure.”