On the second day of hearings at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Dali Mpofu made his opening statement and dropped the first bombshell – he quoted from an email which he said was from Lonmin shareholder Cyril Ramaphosa, casting severe aspersions on the protesters and suggesting that strong action was needed to deal with them. While the evidence will still be tested, the pattern of the ANC heavyweight’s reputation taking a heavy battering continues. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
On the second day of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry – following a postponement at the beginning of October – Dali Mpofu, acting on behalf of the miners who were not killed by the police on 16 August, presented his opening statement.
He said that his team’s participation in the hearings would be to explore ten themes, namely:
- that the massacre could and should have been avoided;
- the toxic collusion between the police and Lonmin or the state and capital was causative of the massacre;
- the massacre exhibited a situation of premeditated murder of defenceless and powerless poor people;
- the claims of self-defence are baseless;
- what happened in front of Groot Koppie includes instances of unjustifiable murder;
- what happened at Klein Koppie includes cold-blooded executions;
- who gave the orders at all levels of government and the police chain of command;
- that the demeanour and behaviour of the police showed that they were, inter alia, motivated by revenge and malice;
- that the underlying causes go deeper than the immediate parties in the commission;
- and that the decision to charge the protesters with the murder of their fellow protesters under the so-called doctrine of common purpose was callous, insensitive and from using the poor as scape-goats.
It was when Mpofu was elaborating on the second point that he mentioned an email from ANC national executive committee member and former secretary-general Cyril Ramaphosa, sent about 24 hours before the 16 August massacre occurred.
“This (e-mail) was on 15 August at 2.58pm, exactly 24 hours before the people were mowed down on that mountain. 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 there needs to be concomitant action to address the situation.
“The letter was addressed to a ‘Dear Albert of Lonmin’.”
Mpofu continued: “Ramaphosa called for action to be taken against ‘these criminals’, whose crime was to seek a wage increase.”
“We are going to get justice, either here or at any other forum, even the International Criminal Court, where we will lay charges against the police who shot our people.”
Like George Bizos acting for the Legal Resources Centre, and Dumisa Ntsebeza for the families of 21 of the deceased, Mpofu said that the he would argue that the police were motivated by a desire to avenge the deaths of their dead colleagues, and not by fear for their own lives.
“What happened was premeditated murder of defenceless people. It had been agreed at a police meeting held on August 16 that ‘stage 3’ of their plan was going to be executed and those discussions had gone as far as the police commissioner and the minister,” he said.
The advocate for the injured and arrested also took umbrage, like Ntsebeza did, to the allegation by the police’s legal representative Ishmael Semenya that they had had to act to defend their own lives because the protesters were under the spell of some magic potion. He said that the evidence at the second killing area was concomitant with that of people fleeing. He also said that he had testimony of people being shot while surrendering, which did not support the police’s version of events.
“Suggestions that miners thought they were invisible because of umuthi are racist, backward and ridiculous,” he said.
Ramaphosa’s email is likely to be used by Mpofu to show that the state and Lonmin colluded in such a way that it strongly influenced the outcome of that fateful day. Advocates acting for the miners have all already promised to build a picture of acts of revenge, unlawfulness and extreme force that was over the top and not at all appropriate for the situation.
Another damning piece of evidence that may come up is a press release issued in the name of Frans Baleni, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers on 13 August, calling for the deployment of the Special Task Force to Rustenburg and the surrounding areas.
“We call for the deployment of a special task force or the SANDF to deal decisively with the criminal elements in Rustenburg and its surrounding mines,” Baleni said. “We appeal for the deployment of the Special Task Force as a matter of urgency before things run out of hand. For months on end we have argued that the situation in Rustenburg requires special intervention and we are seeing no difference.”
If the lawyers acting for the miners can show that the decision to deploy specialised armed units was not the correct one under the circumstances, it will, at the least, show that both NUM and its former general secretary, now a big shareholder at Lonmin, helped foment a toxic environment which led to the deaths of 34 people and the injury of a further 78.
Interestingly, the timing of Mpofu’s speech coincides with news reports that several ANC branches are thinking of nominating Ramaphosa for the position of deputy president to Jacob Zuma, should the current deputy Kgalema Motlanthe decide to run for the top position. It would not be surprising to see the email, rather than the branch announcements, dominate the news agenda in the coming days.
Karabo Bareng Kgoroeadira, a lawyer acting for the royal family of the Bapo Ba Mogale, also presented her opening address. The tribe owns the land upon which the Lonmin mine is situated, and wants to argue that the company has not fulfilled its promise to provide social and economic investment in the area, but has rather reneged on its promises and has rather contributed to an infestation of informal settlements and migrant labourers on tribal lands.
“These social struggles contributed to the boil which has been simmering around the mines,” she said.
The inquiry continues. DM
Photo: Cyril Ramaphosa (Reuters)