JOHANNESBURG Aug 11 South Africa's Deputy
President Cyril Ramaphosa was trying to "prevent further loss of
life" when he intervened in a wildcat strike that ended with the
police killing 34 miners, he told an inquiry on Monday.
Ramaphosa, who led a historic strike for fairer pay for
black miners under apartheid in 1987, has faced accusations of
putting political pressure on the police to take action against
striking Lonmin employees before the shooting at the
Marikana mine on Aug. 16, 2012.
It was the bloodiest security incident since the end of
white-minority rule 20 years ago.
In the days before what has come to be known as the
"Marikana massacre", at least nine people had already been
killed in strike-related violence, including two police
officers. Ramaphosa, who was a Lonmin director at the time, said
that prompted him to contact the Lonmin leadership and the
ministers of police and mining.
"With a grave situation unfolding at the mine, I felt duty
bound to help. To prevent further loss of life," Ramaphosa told
Ramaphosa, once called "South Africa's Lech Walesa" after
the Polish labour leader and democracy activist, now finds
himself pilloried as a cold-hearted capitalist.
In the gallery, around a dozen Marikana residents wore
"McCyril Killer" t-shirts, denigrating U.S.-style capitalism.
Ramaphosa is also a Lonmin investor.
As the trade unionist-turned-billionaire took his oath,
someone in the chamber shouted: "He doesn't believe in God."
The inquiry focused its morning session on emails sent on
Aug. 15, 2012, a day before the police shooting, between
Ramaphosa and the company's chief commercial officer Albert
In one email, Ramaphosa said "concomitant action" was needed
to address "dastardly criminal" actions by wildcat strikers,
adding that he would contact cabinet ministers.
In an email later that day, he said that then-Mining
Minister Susan Shabangu would be briefing President Zuma and
would "get the Minister of Police Nathi Mthetwa to act in a more
Ramaphosa told the committee he meant that the police should
protect people's lives and arrest miners who had committed
Ramaphosa is the most prominent witness to be called by the
Marikana commission of inquiry, an investigation led by retired
judge Ian Farlam that began in October 2012 and was supposed to
last four months.
As well as probing the Aug. 16 shootings, the Marikana
commission has a broader remit to look into labour relations,
pay and accommodation in South Africa's mines - issues seen as
spurring the wildcat strike that preceded the killings.
(Editing by David Dolan/Ruth Pitchford)