Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologised for his role in the Marikana massacre, saying that he tried to prevent “looming disaster” and that it was never his intention to have 34 miners killed.
“I may well have used unfortunate language in the messages that I sent out and for which I have apologised and for which I do apologise. I did not use appropriate language but I had never had the intention to have 34 mine workers killed,” he said.
In an unlikely setting for the apology which many have repeatedly called for, Ramaphosa was addressing academics and students at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.
The presidential candidate said that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had been pained by the massacre and had called on him to address the matter. He said that Madikizela-Mandela had offered to accompany him to Marikana and that he had accepted that “counsel”.
During the question and answer session, a student asked Ramaphosa to “apply his conscience” in clarifying what his role was in the killing of mine workers in Marikana.
Workers had downed tools and taken to the streets in protest, demanding that they be paid R12 500.
“You say you want to appeal to my conscience and my conscience is I participated in trying to stop more deaths from happening. Ten workers had been killed. And my intervention was to say there is a disaster looming. More workers had been killed and more are going to be killed. My role was to try and stop more deaths from happening. Some of the workers had been hacked to death; their eyes gorged out, their hearts ripped out – and that horrified me. You might say that didn’t matter but it did horrify me,” Ramaphosa said in one his most direct responses to the massacre yet.
“I worked for nine years for mine workers, serving them diligently and getting everything done to increase their wages and their living conditions. I put everything that I had to advance the interest of mine workers. It could never be that I will say 34 mine workers should be killed, and I have apologised,” he said, referring to his time as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers.
Ramaphosa is believed to be on the campaign trail ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December where he hopes to succeed President Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC.