It was always improbable that the killing of 34 and wounding of 78 miners at Marikana could have simply been an unforeseen consequence of the police’s desire to see law and order prevail. Time and again, the police leadership – mostly personified by National Commissioner Riah Phiyega – have stated that the plan was ‘disrupted’ by the miners, a perfect storm of bad luck. What is now clear is that the infamous Cyril Ramaphosa e-mails 24 hours before the massacre calling for ‘concomitant action’ against ‘criminals’ by the police was not an isolated act of political interference. By GREG NICOLSON & GREG MARINOVICH.
The police justification of their actions has always been that they acted in self-or private defence; that the miners initiated the violent clash on August 16, 2012. The SAPS representation to the Farlam Commission of Inquiry is that they have acted lawfully, and above reproach, and most importantly, that there was no political influence in their decision-making.
What is now clear is that the infamous Cyril Ramaphosa e-mails 24 hours before the massacre calling for ‘concomitant action’ against ‘criminals’ by the police was not an isolated act of political interference. It is clear that the police were guided by the interests of both big business and by the political players connected to big business. The Marikana operation can be seen as an action by a mercenary force at the behest of powerful people in and outside the ruling African National Congress.
Evidence submitted to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday helps explain how the web of relationships between the ruling ANC, SAPS, NUM and Lonmin led to police forcing through the disastrous plan to disperse striking mineworkers. (Read the entire transcript HERE.)
On Tuesday, 14 August, two days before the massacre, North West Police Commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo discussed the crisis with Barnard Mokoena, Lonmin executive vice president of human relations and external affairs. The conversation is chilling, in many ways.
The meeting was recorded and transcribed by Lonmin, and it was discovered on a hard drive along with other bits of evidence that police have chosen to ignore in their representation. Evidence leader Advocate Matthew Chaskalson submitted the document to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday but only discussed minor details that Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Scott, who was being cross-examined, could address.
The police, however, had over a year ago subpoenaed evidence from Lonmin before preparing their own submission to the Commission. They were well aware of the existence of the recording and transcript of that meeting. Chaskalson’s team searched a police hard drive that contains what he believes to be all of the police evidence, and which was handed over by Scott just recently (see Daily Maverick story here).
“We would have expected that if the SAPS was in possession of the audio they would have made it available to the commission,” said the advocate. “So the audio file was in SAPS’s possession? Do you know how it got there?” Scott said he did not.
The transcript contains unnerving insights into the meeting of minds between the police and Lonmin, and elaborates on the political game at play. The meeting, which included a number of members but is dominated by North West Provincial Commissioner Mbombo and Lonmin’s Mokoena, features a dialogue on political influence and the need to curtail political opportunism.
Mokoena and Mbombo mention the violent strikes at Impala Platinum in 2012 and the perception that the mining house and police were seen as supporting the striking workers who in turn were seen as wanting to get rid of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and install the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
Mbombo says Lonmin can clear that perception by helping provide information for arrests. Mbombo refers to a conversation with the National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, and also with the police minister Nathi Mthethwa, where both her superiors expressed the pressure they were under from Cyril Ramaphosa, then the major BEE shareholder in Lonmin. At that time, Ramaphosa was on the ANC NEC and served as the Chairman of ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals, and is now the ruling party’s deputy president.
Mbombo: “But when I was speaking to Minister Mthethu [it’s likely the transcriber meant Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa] he mentioned a name to me that is also calling him, that is pressuring him, unfortunately it is a political high…”
Mokoena: “It is Cyril.”
Mbombo: “Cyril Ramaphosa, yes. Now remember now when I was talking to the national commissioner last night she says to me, look General who are the shareholders here, so I said I do not know the shareholders but I know that when I spoke to the minister he mentioned Cyril. And then she says, now I got it. You know why she says I got it?”
The “now I get it” refers to national commissioner understanding that Ramaphosa was a key part of the ANC disciplinary appeals committee that expelled Julius Malema from the ANC. It is clear that one of the outcomes for both the police and the ANC is to nip the strike in the bud to prevent political capital being made from the turmoil:
Mbombo: “Now our discussion with the national commissioner was around this thing, that say is this thing now happening such that again Malema come and defuse this thing, so that it becomes as if Malema has taken charge of the mining – the mine.”
Mbombo: “Once again remember Malema’s view that the mine should be…”
Mbombo: “Nationalised and all of that. So it has got a serious political connotation that we need to take into account, but which we need to find a way of defusing. Hence I just told these guys that we need to act such that we kill this thing.”
Mokoena: “Immediately, yes.”
Mbombo: “When tomorrow we have to move in, if today we do not find cooperation in these people we need to move in such that we kill it. Because we need to protect a situation where any jick-and-joff from a political arena…”
Mokoena interrupts to talk about political opportunists wanting to capitalise on the Marikana violence. He says the African People’s Convention’s Themba Godi has contacted him wanting to address the workers. Mbombo said she has also received calls from Godi and other political players looking to get involved.
Mokoena: “So I agree with you, Commissioner, if we can arrest these people, because the longer it goes it is giving all the other opportunists to comment and seize the opportunity and then it will get out of control.”
Mbombo: “That is it.”
What is then discussed, and dismissed, is that the police could well encircle the miners occupying ‘The Mountain” as there were just 1,000 core strikers there, but the police have chosen not to. The conversation does not seem to display a particularly strong desire for a peaceful or contained solution.
Discussing the police plan’s readiness, Mbombo says there will be 480 policemen ready. Thus: “Tomorrow when we go there for the second time now, that we were there today and they did not surrender, then it is blood.”
The logic of the police becomes clear, and in a startling example of double-speak, Mbombo appears to want to avoid bloodshed, yet expresses resignation that there will, indeed be blood spilt at Marikana. And indeed, her further comments seem to complain about the laws that protect citizens from being arbitrarily shot by police. Let us recall that over 4,000 rounds of R5 semi-automatic rifle ammunition were issued to police at Marikana.
“But I said let us beg now because remember we are tied up by these new amendments in our law that says we should not shoot, we should not do this, you know, these things, you know, from Takane’s [presumably the transcription should have been Tatane, referring to Andries Tatane, killed by police in a service delivery protest in Ficksburg in 2011] incident and all that.”
Mbombo says she delayed the police plan because emotions were running high – two SAPS members were killed by the mineworkers on Monday.
“Emotions are very high. Whatever instruction you will have given, but because of the emotions… They will have forgotten the instruction and I do not want a situation where 20 people will be dead. This is not what we are here for, what we are here for is to maintain peace and make sure there is peace, between us and between the people and the company,” she adds.
Here, we have to understand that from early morning after this meeting, the police repeatedly requested the local state mortuary in Rustenburg to send four mortuary vans. This was many hours before the massacre, which happened just before four in the afternoon. The orders for this had to have been concluded the day before.
Mokoena and Mbombo agreed that Lonmin must justify the police actions the next day by instructing their workers to report for work in the morning or consider themselves fired.
Indeed, the police commissioner says that they must dupe the miners into believing the have won their battle, and then she asks Mokoena to delay the company helicopter dropping pamphlets to this effect until the next morning instead of during the night. This will ensure that the miners do not comply with the company order to return to work, and clears the way for the police plan to be implemented.
Mokoena and Mbombo’s dialogue seems like a duet, sung to the same piece of music. They finish each other’s sentences. They inexorably intertwine their words to reach the same fateful conclusion.
Lonmin’s Mokoena, who says he is representing the board, and not just human resources anymore, says he wants the miners arrested. It is clear he knows they will not return to work without a discussion of their wages, and that is fine by him – Lonmin is simply not going to discuss wages.
Mokoena then refers to the infamous D-Day term.
“So I think yes, let tomorrow be the D-Day where we issue the ultimatum and say if you do not show up for work, sorry, that is it.”
Throughout the discussion there is a sense of urgency and Mbombo assures Lonmin that if the protestors do not hand over their weapons and submit peacefully, a plan of force will be implemented. A peaceful resolution would be best, the provincial commissioner says, but she stresses police are ready to implement their plan. Multiple times she mentions the SAPS could currently encircle the koppie as it has only 800-1,000 people on it (in the end police tried the plan when there were 3,000 or more people on the koppie).
Mokoena’s key priority was that people are arrested so that protestors do not get away with killing nine people and the protest doesn’t spread to other mines. Mokoena is adamant that AMCU is behind the violence and has threatened to make it worse. Lonmin refuses to enter into negotiations with the union or the violent protestors, he said.
“It is very clear AMCU is behind it, very clear,” he says. “So we expect people to be arrested because [the audio becomes inaudible…] it is going to happen somewhere else, somewhere else and the police are going to be compromised, we going to be compromised.” People must see a reaction in terms of arrests, argues Mokoena.
Mbombo and Lonmin are yet to be cross-examined at the Marikana Commission but the transcript will surely feature when they do. Emails have already been released showing Ramaphosa urged “action to address this situation”. The new evidence shows that Marikana ran to the heart of the country’s politics and suggests 34 mineworkers may have been sacrificed at the altar of money and power.
As the SAPS’s provincial commissioner so bluntly put it, if the mineworkers don’t surrender, “then it is blood.” It is clear that the people we entrust to run our country put Lonmin’s shareholder interests (including, and perhaps especially, those of ANC deputy president Ramaphosa) before the lives of the miners. This link between police actions on the ground and politicians among the ruling party and their cadres ‘deployed’ in business is something that has been stonewalled by the police at the Marikana commission by those like soon-to-be-fall-gal Riah Phiyega.
The Daily Maverick has consistently said that there is no way an action of this kind could have taken place without being cleared by the top. Does ‘the top’ here extend to President Jacob Zuma himself? Only time will tell. DM
Photo: Cyril Ramaphosa (Newsfire), Nathi Mthetwa (Sapa) and Marikana massacre (Reuters)