Nothing wrong with Ramaphosa's calls - lawyer

2014-11-13 14:18
(File: Sapa)

(File: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa did nothing wrong when he phoned former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and urged him to increase the police intervention at Marikana in August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

"Our learned friends [lawyers for] the families sought to make a big issue from the fact that Minister Mthethwa was called by Mr Ramaphosa and Mr Zokwana on 12 August 2012," Lindi Nkosi-Thomas SC, for Mthethwa, said in her closing arguments.

"They sought to interpret [the phone calls] as political interference. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Mr Ramaphosa calling the minister of police and saying 'intervene because acts of criminality are taking place'."

She said Mthethwa subsequently contacted top police officials and urged them to act, and that this was also above board.

"Can it be said that the minister overstepped the bright line between meddling and oversight? There is no evidence that suggests that such a line was breached," said Nkosi-Thomas.

Mthethwa was simply exercising his oversight role over the police and did not interfere with operational matters.

In July, Dali Mpofu, for the arrested and wounded miners, contended that Ramaphosa had used Mthethwa to exert political pressure on the police to act against protesting Marikana miners.

He was cross-examining Mthethwa at the inquiry at the time.

"You were the intermediary, the conduit, through which the pressure Mr Ramaphosa refers to was conveyed to the senior management of police and ultimately to the officers which killed people," said Mpofu.

Mthethwa testified that people, including Ramaphosa and the then National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana, phoned him, "raising concern about what was happening at Marikana".

"Firstly, I spoke to the deputy president now, Mr Ramaphosa, who had called and left a message. He explained to me that the situation in Marikana was bad. He said he was concerned because people were dying and property was being damaged.

"He said as far as he could see there were no adequate police on the ground. A similar message had been left by Mr Zokwana as president of the NUM," said Mthethwa.

Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time.

Phone calls

He said the phone calls from Ramaphosa and Zokwana were on 12 August 2012.

"I immediately contacted the [North West] provincial commissioner of police [Zukiswa Mbombo] to ascertain the veracity of what I heard from the two gentlemen.

"The provincial commissioner confirmed that there was such a thing. I then wanted to understand what the police management was doing to deal with the situation, to prevent any damage," said Mthethwa.

Mpofu submitted that the discussions between Ramaphosa, Mthethwa, and Mbombo were illegal and against the constitutional framework.

However, Mthethwa said Mpofu's assertions were a figment of his imagination.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, more than 70 were wounded, and another 250 were arrested on 16 August 2012.

Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  nathi mthethwa  |  pretoria  |  marikana inquiry

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