11/08/2014. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Farlam Commission of Enquiry in Centurion, Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa accepted his part of the blame for the Marikana massacre under cross-examination on Tuesday morning.

Ramaphosa said as non-executive board member of Lonmin he should have probed more and sought to find out closely about the negotiations that were going on between the workers and management of the mining company.

He said the living conditions of the workers should have been looked into as well as the transport methods they used to get to and from home, with the money that they were earning.

Under cross-examination by advocate Dali Mpofu, the deputy president said he would never want to associate himself with the living conditions the miners were subjected to.

The conditions were appalling to say the least, he said.

“Personally I have accepted some responsibility for what happened. We all have a role to play and somewhere along the line we did not fulfill it… We did not fulfil them at some point.”

However, Ramaphosa took exception to Mpofu's claim that his relationship with senior ANC officials, including secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, and government officials, constituted a conflict of interest.

Heidi Barnes, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), said Ramaphosa failed to alert management of Lonmin that dismissing striking workers on the eve of the Marikana massacre was not an option, but was quick to categorise the situation as a criminal act.

Barnes told the Farlam Commission this was despite having put on record that dissatisfied workers and huge difference between rock drill operators at Lonmin and those of other companies were a recipe for a perfect storm.

This was in addition to the fact that their counterparts at Impala Platinum for instance had got a substantial increase after embarking on a strike early in 2012.

Barnes said the chief negotiator at the time was concerned the situation at Lonmin was a time-bomb.

Barnes said even though Ramaphosa was aware of the potential disaster, he failed to act nor take necessary steps and ensure contingency plans were put in place to prevent the incidents that were unfolding.

“You knew from the communication (with his Shanduka representative Thandeka Ncube) that an offer had been made and the workers had turned it down,” Barnes said.

“I put it to you that you were aware that Lonmin feared to set bad precedent if it bow to the demands of the workers, but you failed to take the matter up with management.

“Why did you not realise that nothing was being done at management level and act appropriately?

“Instead you lobbied for the events at Marikana to be classified as a criminal act but made no attempt to resolve the cause of the dispute.”

Ramaphosa said there was a weakness in that the rock drill operators had no central bargaining as companies were concerned with protecting their trade secrets.

The commission heard that neither did he know that talks had taken place between management and the workers.

Ramaphosa said while he did raise his concerns with Ncube, he did not recall mentioning these to the management of Lonmin directly.

“There were people handling the matter on a day-to-day basis, but I accept that steps should have been taken to deal with the dispute,” he said.

“I was informed that the matter was receiving attention, although I had no information of what was happening on a daily basis.”

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