Farlam commission: Mpofu and Ramaphosa's war of words

By Drum Digital
12 August 2014

Things got tense at the Marikana Commission this morning as Advocate Dali Mpofu’s cross-examination of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa degenerated into a war of words.

Mpofu, for the injured workers and the arrested, had been building up evidence to prove his contention that Ramaphosa’s share of responsibility for what happened was more than a “fiduciary” one, and that he had to shoulder some “criminal liability” for the tragedy that cost 34 lives on the 16th of August 2012.

Mpofu accused Ramaphosa of a conflict of interest when he called police and mineral resources ministers to stabilise the situation at Lonmin, and said he only cared about the value of his shareholding.  The link between Ramaphosa, the ANC leadership and government was a “cesspool of incestuous relationships” when they communicated about Lonmin, he said.

“When I was intervening I was intervening to save lives. Similarly, when I wanted him (Mpofu) to be a senior counsel…I said it can’t be a conflict of interest,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa, who quit his business to become deputy president, said a conflict of interest should only arise when the relationship between the various parties involved is improper.

He took offence at the suggestion that he had an incestuous relationship with the ANC leadership.

“All of us were performing different tasks.. there was a situation of exigency.

“I did what I was supposed to do when I was dealing with the people who I believed could bring stability,” he said.

Mpofu also quizzed Ramaphosa about his famous email, in which he referred to the strike as being “dastardly criminal” and called for “concomitant action”. He said Ramaphosa and Lonmin deliberately mischaracterised the situation to get the police to unleash maximum force on the strikers.

Ramaphosa denied this  was the case, and repeated that he cared about saving lives.

It got worse when Ramaphosa revealed that Mpofu has asked him to help get President Jacob Zuma to confer silk status on him, which would allow him to practice as a senior counsel.

Only the president can confer that status on advocates. A recent court challenge on this by advocate Devi Mansingh failed. The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had the authority to confer silk status in November last year.

The practice is that junior advocates usually wear cotton robes, while senior advocates wear silk ones.

Judge Ian Farlam had his hands full trying to contain the tensions, and even asked for temperatures to come down.

The commission observed a moment of silence for the workers who died on this day in 2012.

Mpofu continues to cross examine Ramaphosa this afternoon.

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