Ramaphosa set to step into the firing lineComment on this story
Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s alleged role in the Marikana massacre that saw police kill 34 miners during an unprotected strike in 2012 will come under the spotlight this week when he appears before the Marikana commission.
Ramaphosa will be the latest among high-profile role players who have appeared before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry probing the circumstances surrounding the August 16, 2012, shooting.
He is expected to face questions regarding his communication with former police minister Nathi Mthethwa, which the lawyers representing the injured mineworkers and the families of the dead miners have alleged show that he exerted pressure on the police to act against the miners.
His appearance comes as the country prepares to mark the second anniversary of the massacre.
During Mthethwa’s testimony last month the former police minister denied having been influenced by Ramaphosa, who was then an ANC national executive committee member and a Lonmin board member, to act against the miners, but admitted to being contacted by Ramaphosa to raise concerns about events unfolding in Marikana.
E-mails exchanged between Ramaphosa and Lonmin executives, including the one sent 24 hours before the shooting in which he says: “Let’s keep the pressure on them (government) to act correctly”, are expected to be interrogated when he takes the stand.
This is in addition to other e-mails which have already been presented before the commission, including the one where he described the strike by the mineworkers as criminal.
It read: “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such… there needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”
As the country prepares to mark the tragedy, questions have been raised as to whether their deaths were in vain.
While President Jacob Zuma’s response was to establish a commission of inquiry chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, questions were this week raised as to whether the commission had brought the country closer to understanding what really happened on that day.
Since its establishment, the commission has been faced with many delays, including one caused by legal wrangles over the payment of lawyers representing the injured miners and the families of those who died.
However, the commission has so far received testimony from some of the role players, including police commanders who were in charge of the police operations and miners who took part in the strikes, including those who survived the shooting.
Some of the top brass on the side of police and government have also appeared before the commission.
They include police commissioner Riah Phiyega, Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa and former NUM president Senzeni Zokwana.
Speaking to The Sunday Independent this week, SA Council of Churches head Bishop Jo Seoka, who himself appeared before the commission in 2012, said he was disappointed that the police “have not come clean” about the events of the day.
“What we have heard is the police contradicting each other, and their stories do not tie with the evidence that has been presented. You only need to look at the evidence presented by Mr X (the unidentified miner testifying for the police) to see that there is an attempt to do a cover-up.
“I think it is because people who are implicated are linked to the ruling party and government, so it is unlikely that the whole truth will come out,” said Seoka.
He also questioned the legitimacy of promises to improve the lives of those living in Marikana and surrounding areas, saying two years after the shooting, people were still living in squalor.
“There is just talk about what is going to be done, but we do not see it. People are still living in shacks, there are still no recreational facilities and unemployment remains high for the locals,” he said.
Commission spokesman advocate Phuti Setati said they were happy with the progress made by the commission considering “the circumstances under which we have been working”.
According to Setati, when the commission was set up it was envisaged that it would take four months to conclude its work, but this had taken longer.
“It was realised that there was still a lot of work to be done and that is why our mandate has been extended a number of times. Under these circumstances, we are happy with the progress that has been made so far,” said Setati.
According to Setati, the rest of the witnesses for the week would be confirmed after the evidence leaders had reconvened, which was likely to happen by tomorrow.
Institute of Security Studies researcher Graham Newham, said this week that evidence presented before the commission so far had already managed to answer some of the questions and laid to rest some uncertainties.
“At least we have an idea of the sequence of events and we know for sure that there was more than one scene were shootings took place.
“We know that police made a decision to go tactical when there was an opportunity to do crowd control instead of sending in police with semi-automatic rifles. It completely throws out the police’s version about shooting in self-defence.
“What we have definitely learnt so far is that what happened on that day was avoidable, that is the one certainty we have based on the evidence that has been presented,” said Newham.
According to Newham, the commission had taken longer because of the way it was structured, with no clear timeframes for testimonies until at a later stage.
“There had to be limit for evidence leaders to question witnesses and clearer timetables, these were only introduced at a later stage,” said Newham.
While the police have been under fire at the commission on their role in the 16 August shooting, Mr X’s testimony has also alleged the miners were also to blame for what eventually happened.