It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was let off the hook by the final report of the Farlam commission of inquiry into the killings at Lonmin’s Marikana mine or was he?
I see the headlines this morning all focus on how Ramaphosa escaped culpability for the death of 34 miners killed in the Marikana massacre. The report says the allegation of culpability made by lawyers of the families of the slain men were not going to stick: there was no prima facie (credible) evidence to make the case.
It says clearly that: “The commission is of the view that it cannot be said that Mr Ramaphosa was the cause of the massacre,” and it adds “... objective evidence shows Mr Ramaphosa was not aware of the decision on Wednesday August 15 to move to the tactical option”.
The “tactical option”, which the commission says ultimately led to the deaths of the miners, was the path chosen by North West provincial commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo.
Judge Ian Farlam agreed with the commission’s evidence leaders that Ramaphosa may have worn several hats during the run-up to the killings (he was ANC national executive member; a Lonmin director as well as a 9% shareholder in the company) but all “had an interest in putting an end to the killings that had taken place”.
But that is where the good news stops for the deputy president. The commission agrees the deputy president had privileged access to Cabinet members whom he texted or called at all hours of the day or night to do the bidding of Lonmin executives. Evidence before the commission is replete with detail of how Ramaphosa exercised his political seniority over both then Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and then Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa. He cajoled, attempted to influence and lobbied them furiously on the company’s behalf.
The report says: “He was a senior office bearer of the African National Congress, and he knew the ministers and other key role players in government. As a result, he had access to them and influence with them. Suggestions to the contrary, for example, that he had no greater access or influence than ordinary members of the public are fanciful.”
As a corporation, Lonmin comes in for a drubbing, far removed from the gloss its spin doctors have put on the affair. Its handling of labour relations is excoriated by the commission and it is no wonder that the then head of labour relations, Barnard Mokwena, has been quietly retired.
How does this reflect on Ramaphosa? The deputy president’s company, Shanduka, was not only a shareholder in Lonmin but it also provided consultancy services for a healthy monthly retainer. These services ostensibly included labour relations advice and also empowerment training – on both counts, Lonmin failed miserably.
Numerous reports show how it was in deficit of its own social and labour plans – these are legal documents mining companies pledge themselves to in return for mining licences. This failure casts a shadow over Ramaphosa.
Farlam agreed with this view by the evidence leaders: “Lonmin management did not respond adequately to the violently conflictual situation which had arisen. It may well be that the directors, and perhaps particularly Mr Ramaphosa given his background, should have appreciated the need for urgent action to address the underlying labour dispute, and should have intervened actively to ensure that management took such action.”
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