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Cyril Ramaphosa is toast. The man so many hoped would be a future president has been exposed as a cynical manipulator, a greedy schemer and heartless capitalist.
Or has he?
Well, Cope this week called him a ruthless, cold-hearted businessman after it emerged that the mining unionist turned mine boss had sent an e-mail condemning mineworkers’ protests.
In an e-mail to mine management, Ramaphosa wrote: “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.”
The e-mail was proudly presented by Dali Mpofu, who is representing miners at the Farlam Commission into the Marikana shooting of 34 miners by the police.
The e-mail was sent by Ramaphosa 24 hours before the shooting.
Mpofu said e-mails were exchanged between Ramaphosa, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Lonmin management and Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu.
He described it as “toxic collusion”.
Ranjeni Munusamy, writing for Daily Maverick, correctly commends Ramaphosa’s struggle pedigree and his role in negotiating South Africa’s constitution.
In handling Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing, his behaviour was impeccable.
Indeed, this is a man with diplomacy and tact. And, to add to his lustre, he appears to have kept largely aloof from the ugly factional politics of the ANC.
But Munusamy says Ramaphosa’s role in the Marikana massacre transported him from “a messiah waiting to be elevated to high political office to the league of fallen heroes”.
I disagree. What happened at Marikana was an absolute tragedy. It’s easy to sit on the side-lines and chirp, but I think the police blundered monumentally at Marikana. The fact that 14 miners were shot in the back is testament to that.
The police were never in control of that situation. They allowed a vacuum of lawlessness to develop.
If they were in charge, then Marikana would not have turned into the bloody mess that it did.
But let’s not gloss over the role of the miners. They were involved in a wildcat strike. They were armed and prepared for war.
A few days before the massacre, they hacked two policemen to death.
The fact that Ramaphosa called for a clampdown on criminals doesn’t make him an ogre. It doesn’t mean he ordered a massacre.
He actually showed leadership when the government was showing none.
Ramaphosa went on SABC radio afterwards and said Marikana should not have happened.
He admitted that “a lot of us stakeholders are to blame”.
At the same time, he apologised for bidding for a buffalo worth R18 million in a game auction. He said it was a mistake that he regretted.
He said his comrades had chastised him because it was an excessive price “in the seas of poverty…
“It was one of those moments when I was blind-sighted”.
Real leaders can account for their behaviour.
I don’t believe Ramaphosa should be roasted for his role in calling on the authorities to keep law and order. That is just what most South Africans are crying out for.
Contrast this with the antics of President Jacob Zuma.
He dithered throughout Marikana and afterwards too. He has spent most of his time in office dilly-dallying.
His reign has been characterised by bad appointments and blunders. This week I heard a radio listener imploring the president to explain why he’d failed to meet a Wednesday deadline to file an affidavit in response to the DA’s spy tape challenge in court.
The DA won a court bid to compel the National Prosecuting Authority to produce a “reduced record of decision” relating to corruption charges being dropped against Zuma.
The tapes reportedly contain conversations showing impropriety in the investigation into Zuma and apparently tainted the case against him.
As others said this week, deliberating the contents of the spy tapes in open court would put to rest the controversy around how and why the charges against Zuma were dropped.
If the president disregards the rule of law, how can he expect anything different from the man in the street? Which goes back to the point Ramaphosa made when he called for respect for the law at Marikana.
You either uphold law and order or you don’t.