Nearly five years after the horrifying killing of hundreds of mine workers, popularly referred to as the marikana Massacre, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says he is sorry.
Speaking at Rhodes University, Ramaphosa apologized for what he referred to as an inappropriate language during the Marikana strike that saw the deaths of hundreds of miners in 2012.
He said though he participated in trying to stop further deaths from happening before the day of the Marikana massacre, his comments during the event worsened the whole issue.
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Ramaphosa has been severally fingered for his role in the ‘toxic collusion’. He was accused of being part of a cabal that masterminded the use of force that eventually led to the tragic events of August 16.
At a Judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma to probe the causes of the massacre, Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the families of those killed in the Marikana massacre, said Ramaphosa, who was a Lonmin director and shareholder at the time of the shootings, should have done something to stop the massacre.
But, in his address to professionals and academics at Rhodes University in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape on Sunday afternoon, Ramaphosa said he intervened as he was concerned about the looming disaster where 10 mineworkers were killed before the police gunned down 34 mineworkers, who were seeking wage increases.
Ramaphosa says he apologized before and is still sorry.
“I then said: we need to prevent this from happening. And yes, I may well have used unfortunate language in the messages I sent out and for which I have apologized, and for which I do apologize that I did not use appropriate language.”
The shootings which have been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, took place on the 25-year anniversary of a nationwide South African miners’ strike.
Controversy ensued after it was discovered that most of the victims were shot in the back, and many victims were shot far from police lines. At the time Ramaphosa stepped into the situation, ten mine workers had been killed and his intervention was to say “there is a disaster looming, more workers had been killed and are going to be killed”.
The deputy, however, explained that at that time, he was horrified by the scene of the massacre were he claimed to have seen some of the workers whose eyes were ripped off, and their heart was torn out.
“You might say that doesn’t matter but it did horrify me as a person and I then said we need to prevent this from happening. Yes, I may well have used unfortunate language in the messages I sent out.”
He then apologized for the messages adding that he had done so in the past.
“I have apologized and I do apologize that I did not use appropriate language but I never had the intention to have 34 other mine workers killed,” Ramaphosa told attendees, adding that having worked for nine years for mine workers, he would not be responsible for their deaths.
Ramaphosa said he served miners diligently, and got everything done to increase their wages as well as their living conditions, during his nine years as the general secretary at the National Union of Mineworkers.
“I put everything I had to advance the interest of mine workers. It could never be that I would then say 34 mine workers should be killed. I have apologized – this is where even as a leader, I’m willing and prepared to listen to advice and counsel of other leaders,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had counseled him to address the issue involving him in the Marikana massacre. He said Madikizela-Mandela told him that the matter needs to be addressed. Madikizela-Mandela was pained by the incident, he said.
“And I also felt pained by what happened in Marikana. I am willing to do that. I am going to be led by Mama in this regard,” he added.