Pretoria - Violence during the 2012 Marikana miners protest was described as “dastardly criminal”, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.
This was the term used by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, then a non-executive director of Lonmin, in an e-mail to Lonmin colleague, marketing director Albert Jamieson on August 15, 2012.
“By that time, around eight people had been killed, including workers and police. I viewed this as criminal acts [because of] the description of how the people had been killed,” Ramaphosa told the inquiry in Pretoria.
He was led in submitting evidence by his lawyer David Unterhalter.
“Much as I was not on the ground, as I got all these reports, I concluded that these were acts of criminality,” said Ramaphosa.
He wrote in the e-mail that the Marikana incidents should not be characterised as a labour dispute.
“You said 'they are plainly and dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such'. Tell us why you used that language,” said Unterhalter.
Ramaphosa responded: “I could not [find] a better way of describing it, when someone is killed and their body parts are then cut out. I couldn't find a better way of describing it because it was quite horrific.”
Unterhalter asked Ramaphosa to explain why he said there needed to be “concomitant action to address the situation”.
Ramaphosa said he wanted police to arrest the perpetrators of violence.
“I felt that this needed the police to take appropriate action to identify those involved in the acts [of criminality], and arrest them so they would not continue killing people in that brutal way.”
Ramaphosa said he had spoken to then police minister Nathi Mthethwa regarding the unrest but did not “prescribe” the level of intervention required.
The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, in August 2012.
Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and over 250 arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.
Security was significantly heightened at the commission on Monday, ahead of Ramaphosa's testimony.
A police water cannon, several Nyalas, and rolls of barbed wire, were stationed in the Tshwane council premises where the inquiry holds its public hearings.
Numerous police and presidential protection service vehicles were also at the venue. Some police vehicles were parked on Rabie Street outside.
The number of news crews had also swelled significantly, compared to previous days.
Dali Mpofu, for the wounded and arrested mineworkers, said during the public hearings in July that Ramaphosa used Mthethwa to exert political pressure on police to act against the protesting Marikana miners.
“You were the intermediary, the conduit, through which the pressure Mr Ramaphosa refers to was conveyed to the senior management of police and ultimately to the officers who killed people,” Mpofu said while cross-examining Mthethwa at the inquiry at the time.
A group of protesters seeking to enter the Tshwane council premises converged at the main entrance as Ramaphosa testified.
Some people in the auditorium wore white T-shirts written “Buffalo Head killed people in Marikana” and “McCyril the killer”. Some T-shirts had a drawing of a buffalo head.
These were references to Ramaphosa reportedly once unsuccessfully bidding up to R19.5 million for a buffalo cow, and his ownership of the McDonald's franchise in South Africa.