Talks should have happened earlier to prevent violence – Ramaphosa

2014-08-12 11:28

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was asked at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry why he did not intervene and initiate negotiations with striking Marikana miners in 2012.

“Nothing was happening as far as the wage dispute was concerned. Why did you not establish that nothing was being done?” asked Heidi Barnes, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

She was cross-examining Ramaphosa at the commission’s public hearings in Pretoria today.

Ramaphosa was a nonexecutive director and shareholder at Lonmin at the time.

He replied: “We had people who were dealing with the matter at the level where everything was happening.

“I can concede that meeting should have happened, negotiations should have ensued at an early [stage] before everything escalated into violence”.

The commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, in August 2012.

Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

Barnes said Ramaphosa should have intervened.

“You didn’t even ask, because you would have been told that nothing was happening in relation to the wage dispute. If you had asked, you would have said it was unacceptable,” she said.

Ramaphosa disagreed.

“We got reports from where everything was happening. Our representative, Ms [Thandeka] Ncube, was dealing with the matter. I did not have the information on an ongoing basis.”

Barnes asked Ramaphosa to explain why he expended a great deal of energy on lobbying to have the preceding violence characterised as criminal and to increase police presence, yet “did not take a single step to find out what was going on with regards to the wage dispute”.

Ramaphosa said the incidents were an emergency which required attention after being stabilised initially.

“I was being given information of people dying and being killed. That is what I responded to, immediately. The stabilisation, in my view, would lead to negotiations to bring the solution,” he said.

Ramaphosa said striking employees should not attack nonprotesting colleagues.

Security was again tightened considerably on the second day of Ramaphosa’s testimony.

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