Marikana: Shabangu feels the heat, sticks to Lonmin claim

2014-08-26 17:10

Former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu refused to withdraw remarks she made this morning that platinum miner Lonmin wanted to wipe labour union NUM off the face of the earth.

She made the sensational claim in what was a difficult day for her at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana massacre.

Evidence leader Advocate Kemashni Pillay, quoting from an article that appeared in Business Day last May, asked Shabangu what she meant when she told an NUM conference that the union was “dealing with forces determined to remove it from the face of the earth” and that the same forces were “trying to drive the ruling ANC from power”.

Shabangu told Pillay that she was referring to Lonmin, saying mining companies had a history of not respecting labour rights.

After lunch, Lonmin lawyer Mike Van As took her up on this statement, saying it was irresponsible for her to conclude in this manner when Lonmin security guards had died protecting NUM offices.

Van As said Shabangu was not referring to Lonmin or any of the other two dominant platinum mining houses when she said forces were determined to remove NUM from the face of the earth. He said the remark was aimed at rival union Amcu.

“The force you saw as wanting to remove NUM from the face of the earth is Amcu; not Lonmin, not Implats, not Amplats,” said Van As.

But Shabangu stuck to her guns. “That’s your opinion,” she responded.

Van As then gave her an opportunity to withdraw the remark, but Shabangu refused.

Before this altercation, Shabangu had squared off with advocate Dali Mpofu – lawyer for the miners and their families – who had accused her of protecting the interests of executives at Lonmin at the expense of miners.

Mpofu reminded Shabangu of remarks she made in April 2008 when she was still deputy police minister, instructing police to shoot and kill criminals. He said such thinking was in line with her characterisation that the unrest on the platinum belt had become criminal, hence the police had every right to shoot and kill striking miners.

This exchange led an exasperated Shabangu to remark to commission chairperson Ian Farlam that: “Mr Mpofu is very pathetic.”

Earlier Shabangu accused Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa of lying in an email in which he wrote that she had agreed with him that the unrest at Lonmin back in August 2012 was a “criminal act” and not a just a labour dispute.

She said Ramaphosa – who was a non-executive director at Lonmin – had made the false claim in an email because he was under pressure to show his colleagues that he was taking action with regards to unrest on the platinum belt.

“He (Ramaphosa) had to act in a way to show his colleagues he was working,” said Shabangu.

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