Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa engaged in a tough question and answer session in Parliament yesterday, tackling topics such as the legalisation of prostitution and an update on the health ombud’s report into the investigation of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Questions were also posed to the deputy president about job security and the plight of poverty-stricken South Africans.
Ramaphosa, who is billed to be a running candidate for the title of president against the likes of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, issued an apology over the weekend pertaining to his role in the Marikana massacre which occurred in 2012.
Ramaphosa was at the time a non-executive director of Lonmin, and had sent out scathing emails instructing security personnel to use excessive force against miners who were protesting against low wages.
Speaking at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, Ramaphosa said that his wording was inappropriate.
The aftermath of the recent Cabinet reshuffle saw Ramaphosa stay decidedly steadfast in his role as deputy president after public speculation was rife at the time that he may resign.
President Jacob Zuma has publicly come out in support of his former wife, Dlamini-Zuma, to assume the role of office as the next president of the country come the national elections in 2019.
After Ramaphosa apologised for his role at Marikana, many parties came out strongly against his comments, with some saying it was not enough to erase what happened.
The National Union of Metal Workers rejected his apology, saying that “at the time of the tragedy Ramaphosa was a director at Lonmin, the thoroughly discredited mining house that was at the epicentre of the events that transpired”.
The union’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, said in a glaring statement that the apology was nothing more than “empty words”.
“As Numsa we cannot take the utterances of the deputy president seriously. Ramaphosa and the ANC that he leads do not have any solutions for the working class. It is also clear that his apology is nothing more than a brazen attempt to get workers to support his bid for the presidency of the governing party,” Jim said.
Cosatu’s Sizwe Pamla told City Press by email that the trade union federation appreciated that he had apologised “even though he was never found guilty by the Farlam Commission investigating the tragedy in Marikana”.
The Farlam Commission, which was chaired by Judge Ian Gordan Farlam, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma on August 23 2012 to investigate “the tragic incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana, in the North West Province, which led to the deaths of 44 people, more than 70 persons being injured, and about 250 people being arrested,” according to the commission.
“His language was indeed unfortunate in that it failed to acknowledge the genuine issues that were being raised by workers in Marikana. Cosatu feels that it would be disingenuous for us to fail to acknowledge and recognise Ramaphosa’s apology, when we have been convinced to forgive people who committed the worst atrocities in this country. Comrade Ramaphosa committed no crime, he just mis-spoke. What we would like to see happen is a situation, where he does more to help the affected families than offer an apology,” Pumla said of his apology.
The Democratic Alliance this week also called for action from Ramaphosa, in the form of personally contributing towards the compensation of victim’s families.
“If Deputy President Ramaphosa is truly remorseful for his part in the Marikana massacre, he should personally make a significant contribution to fund the Marikana compensation out of his own pocket. He is an extraordinarily wealthy South African, and he could personally compensate the Marikana families for what he has apologised for,” the DA said.
Associate professor in the politics department at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana told City Press that the Marikana massacre was going to be addressed by Ramaphosa at some point.
“If you look at the context of what happened at the time, what Ramaphosa did was not far-fetched. It was expected for a director to seek police protection, but he probably did not expect the brutality over what happened to the mine workers,” he said.
Ndletyana said that it rested on the people and if they saw his apology as “sincere”.
“It comes down to popular perceptions around his sincerity. His emails were not driven by malice, he was alarmed and perhaps panicked at the events surrounding Marikana. Now Ramaphosa serves under President Zuma, so it is up to the government to see what they can do,” he told City Press.
In order to help his campaigning and his public image, as well as public faith in Ramaphosa, Ndletyana believed that it would serve him well to open up the conversation around Marikana.