POLOKO TAU and SAPA
A DAY before police mowed down 34 Lonmin miners, ANC heavyweight and business magnate Cyril Ramaphosa characterised the strikers’ action in an e-mail correspondence as “plainly dastardly criminal acts” that needed to be tackled.
This is what a lawyer representing the miners, injured and arrested in the August 16 Marikana shooting, has told an inquiry into their deaths.
Advocate Dali Mpofu said yesterday there was an e-mail in which Ramaphosa condemned the protests strongly, labelling them criminal acts and suggesting “concomitant action”.
“This [e-mail] was on August 15 at 2.58pm – exactly 24 hours before the people were mowed down on that mountain,” Mpofu said.
“We have e-mails that were being exchanged between Lonmin management, government ministers [of mineral resources and the police] and at the centre is a gentleman called Cyril Ramaphosa,” Mpofu said.
“He advanced that what was taking place were criminal acts and must be characterised as such. In line with this characterisation, [Ramaphosa said] there needs to be concomitant action to address the situation,” he said.
“The e-mail was addressed to a certain ‘Dear Albert’ of Lonmin.”
Mpofu said Ramaphosa had called for action to deal with the “criminals, whose crime was to seek a wage increase”.
The legal representative vowed that his team would find justice for his clients.
“We are going to get justice, either here or at any other forum, even the ICC [International Criminal Court], where we will lay charges against the police who shot our people,” he said.
Mpofu said evidence would be led to discredit claims that the shootings had been spontaneous acts committed in self-defence by police officers.
“What happened was premeditated murder of defenceless people. It had been agreed at a police meeting held on August 16 that ‘stage three’ of their plan was going to be executed. Those discussions had gone as far as the police commissioner and the minister,” he said.
Mpofu said that on August 16, the North West police commissioner had called journalists and told them that “today is the day”.
Among the causes of the Marikana tragedy was a “toxic collusion between the state and capital”, Mpofu said.
“The main causes of the massacre are the SA Police Service, other agencies of government and Lonmin. The people I represent seek the truth for themselves and their colleagues who passed away.”
He described the actions of the police as “murder and extra-judicial killings”.
Mpofu claimed people who had fled were caught by the police, that they had surrendered and were shot, some in the face.
Allegations that the protesters were under a “muti spell” and believed that they were invincible and invisible were “nonsense”, Mpofu added.
“If these people thought they were invisible, why did they run away?” he asked.
Ramaphosa is a Lonmin shareholder. He has been criticised for bidding R18 million for a buffalo at an auction at about the same time as the unprotected strike.
The ANC bigwig’s investment holding company, Shanduka, announced shortly after the massacre that it would contribute R2m towards the burial of the 34 men.
Meanwhile, the video material showing relatives of those who were mowed down by bullets proved too much for the dead miners’ families yesterday.
The relatives, including widows, were part of the proceedings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry at the Rustenburg Civic Centre.
Several officers could be heard screaming “cease fire!” repeatedly soon after a handful of men had been mowed down.
Their bullet-riddled and bloodied bodies are seen lying next to a kraal close to the Nkaneng informal settlement some distance away from the koppie. A police officer was seen dragging a dead man by his shirt on the ground among other bodies. This was too distressing for some of the families, who broke down in tears.
Commission chairman Judge Ian Farlam then announced that arrangements had been made for family members to watch the video footage in a separate room, with social workers to counsel them.
Meanwhile, Lonmin yesterday denied claims that it colluded with the police and the government in the days before the shooting.