The Ramaphosa-Mpofu face-off

By Drum Digital
13 August 2014

More than the occasional heckling that came from the public, the drama came from the heated exchanges between Advocate Dali Mpofu and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's appearance at the Marikana Commission yesterday was shot through with drama.

More than the occasional heckling that came from the public, many of whom are members of the families of the slain workers, the drama came from the heated exchanges between Advocate Dali Mpofu who represents the injured and arrested Marikana workers, and Ramaphosa.

For effect, Mpofu kept a worker who lost his limb in the unlawful 2012 Lonmin strike next to him throughout his grilling session of Ramaphosa.

It was also to this man called Pasha - a miner of who has worked in the mines for 30 years - that Mpofu referred to when he closed his cross-examination by proposing to Ramaphosa that the deputy president, the police generals and other political actors should be referred to the International Criminal Court for Marikana.

Situated in The Hague, the court tries international criminals for crimes against humanity. Ramaphosa was dismissive of the proposition- central to Mpofu's case - that he was criminally liable for the Lonmin labour crisis, that claimed 44 lives: "You should have foreseen that your pressure [on ministers] would result in the killing of 34 people at least," Mpofu told Ramaphosa towards the end of the cross-examination. The deputy president  countered calmly as he did throughout the second part of the day-long session: "Clearly, you have taken a considerable amount of time building this proposition that all manner of people should be charged. I deeply regret the death of all the people who died. I do not agree with the proposition of the advocate."

"He killed them. He is a sell-out, this man. People in Venda are hungry and you can't even give them food."

Mpofu had earlier pressed Ramaphosa, insisting that his calls for a police intervention amounted to "trying to put out a fire by pouring petrol" and that he should have foreseen the killings. But Ramaphosa stuck to his guns that he was trying to do good.

"I wouldn't know," Ramaphosa explained at some point. But a livid Mpofu accused him of being "untruthful", saying "political considerations" had overridden security concerns when the then Lonmin non-executive director and ANC leader intervened in Marikana.

During the heated discussion, a man shouted from the public gallery: "Phendula umbuzo (answer the question)". Judge Ian Farlam and others ignored the man's outburst.

Later -  when Ramaphosa was wrapping up his testimony - a man loudly labelled  him a "murderer", "Buffalo head" and a "sell-out" who sold workers for money. He said Ramaphosa was protecting his shares so he could be as rich as his in-law -which might have been a reference to entrepreneur Patrice Motsepe.

"He killed them. He is a sell-out, this man. People in Venda are hungry and you can't even give them food," he shouted as he left the chambers, disrupting Ramaphosa's expression of regret for the loss of life.

His language was not very different from that of Mpofu who earlier suggested Ramaphosa had sold out for "30 pieces of silver". Mpofu accused him of using his BEE partnership in the company to mislead government into acting the way it did in 2012.

"You were assimilated into the Lonmim way of solving problems. You were assimilated. You did it for financial gain. This person mischaracterises a situation and asks you to spew it to the state unquestioningly. That's not a BEE role," Mpofu charged.

What seemed to raise temperatures was Ramaphosa's insistence that he acted within the law as he would had he tried to get President Jacob Zuma to promote Mpofu to a senior counsel.

Sometimes Mpofu's choice of words angered his fellow lawyers. He provoked the ire of Advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, when he described the  Marikana shooting as a "massacre". He soon retracted,  tongue-in-cheek,  by promising to call the killing of the 34 "an incident".

Ramaphosa's counsel , Advocate David Unterhalter took issue with Mpofu's long questions. At times Ramaphosa did not seem to get Mpofu's questions, prompting Unterhalter to intervene.

At one point,  Ramaphosa sarcastically said he was waiting for Mpofu to finish his question so he could see if he would get it right. Mpofu retorted by blaming Bantu education for his English phrasing before he unleashed the sting in the tail: "But now I do know why you [Ramaphosa] have a white [legal] team."

The commission, while filled with heated exchanges, had several moments of banter.

When Mpofu suggested that their fight would not result in him being disadvantaged: "I hope the president will not direct his wrath at me"

"The president likes you, actually," Ramaphosa answered.

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