More answers required on Marikana from Ramaphosa
SOUTH Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has “apologised” for his actions in the run up to the Marikana massacre when police killed 34 striking mineworkers on August 16, 2012. His supposed apology - made during a speech at Rhodes University on May 7 - reportedly followed advice by struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela that he make amends and visit Marikana. But, was it a proper apology?

Ramaphosa only referred to “language” he used in e-mails to fellow Lonmin directors, which he said “may have been unfortunate” and “not appropriate”.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever requested an apology for “language”. The concern is about his actions and their relationship to the killings.

Ramaphosa added that it was never his intention to have 34 mineworkers killed, but this again skirts the issue.

Nobody suggested he was responsible for the 34 deaths. The argument is that his intervention made bloodshed more likely and that he could probably have stopped the killings had he acted differently. His critics (me included) are very clear that his failure to insist on negotiations led to the deaths.

Some fact checking is in order.

The evidence in the Marikana Commission of Inquiry showed that Ramaphosa interceded at two specific moments. We need to separate these if his culpability is to be accurately assessed.

The first intervention was on August 12, 2012, when he contacted then minister of police, Nathi Mthethwa, successfully lobbying him to send more police officers to Marikana. In his recent weekend apology, Ramaphosa claimed: "Ten workers had been killed and my role was to stop further deaths." In fact, at the time he spoke with Mthethwa, only two workers, both security guards, had been killed.

The second intervention was on August 15, the day before the massacre. We know about this through the flurry of e-mails that Ramaphosa authored and received. These don’t contain any evidence that he was acting benevolently.

By now there were about 800 police on the ground at Marikana, so no need to lobby for more. The focus of his new role was to persuade Susan Shabangu, then minister of mineral resources, that the Marikana miners were not engaging in a labour dispute but “a dastardly criminal act”. The significance of this is that if the conflict could be redefined, decisive police action could be justified. Ramaphosa was opposed to negotiations. Instead, he supported the position of Lonmin and the South African Police Service.

We don’t know the full extent of Ramaphosa’s knowledge about the operation planned for August 16. But, given his position as a director of Lonmin and willingness to act in its interests, it’s unlikely he was unaware of “the plan” (which included use of lethal force).

Certainly two of Lonmin’s vice-presidents, Barnard Mokwena and Mark Munroe, were in the loop before the operation got under way. Thus, in my view there’s a prima facie case for charging them with being accessories to murder.

Would they really have kept Ramaphosa in the dark? In my opinion, there’s enough evidence to charge Ramaphosa under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, a possibility flagged at the inquiry by counsel for injured and arrested persons, Dali Mpofu.

It’s possible that because he was pushing for a murder charge against Ramaphosa, Mpofu lacked the time to pursue this lesser crime.

Ramaphosa was a senior member of the governing ANC with enough weight to place pressure on the minister of police.

Elsewhere, Ramaphosa seeks to convey that he was a friend of the workers. But, as chairperson of Lonmin’s transformation committee he was responsible for the company’s failure to abide by its commitment to build 5500 houses for employees, instead completing only three dwellings. Moreover, he benefited materially from the low wages that were the main grievance raised by the striking workers.

Ramaphosa had been general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and, later, as secretary-general of the ANC he had led his party in talks that brought an end to apartheid. He was a skilled negotiator, perfectly positioned to bring a peaceful settlement to the dispute, but instead he aligned himself with Lonmin and the police in their attempt to crush the strike using lethal force.

For an apology from Ramaphosa to have credibility, there should be full disclosure of everything he knows. This has not yet happened.

Furthermore, the following should happen:

Full compensation to be paid, without further delay, to miners who were injured or wrongfully arrested and to the families of workers who were killed;

Adequate funding for investigations by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate into which police officers should be prosecuted for the Marikana massacre deaths;

Charging the police whose case files are now with the National Prosecuting Authority; and

The immediate dismissal of Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega, who was suspended after the commission found she lied during her testimony.

The Claassen Inquiry, appointed by President Jacob Zuma, recommended her sacking more than six months ago, yet she continues to collect a large salary more than four years after a massacre in which she played a pivotal part.

Ramaphosa’s “apology” makes one wonder whether he’s in denial or just a desperate politician with presidential ambitions.

Peter Alexander is the author of various publications on Marikana, most recently an assessment of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, published in the Journal of Southern African Studies.