South Africa 10.11.2014 05:16 pm

Ramaphosa not responsible for Marikana tragedy – Lonmin

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa seen at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry. Picture: SAPA

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa seen at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry. Picture: SAPA

Lonmin could not criticise Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for his role in events during the unprotected strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.

“I cannot criticise Mr Ramaphosa on what he did. He did what any responsible businessman would’ve done,” Schalk Burger, for Lonmin, told the commission in his final arguments.

Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time of the August 2012 wage-related strike.

He has been accused of using his political influence to get the police to act against the striking workers.

Burger argued that Ramaphosa’s motive was to “stabilise the situation and bring the violence to an end”.

The commission also heard that Ramaphosa’s representatives would not be making oral submissions.

“We’ve received a letter stating that they stand by their written submissions in their original heads of arguments and replies and there’s nothing they wish to add to that,” said evidence leader Geoff Budlender.

The commission heard that Lonmin could not breach the legal framework to negotiate with mineworkers on an unprotected strike.

“There’s a contradiction between the suggestion that the law and constitutional democracy should be respected, and on the other hand impose on Lonmin to negotiate with strikers outside the legal framework,” said Burger.

Burger said Lonmin was governed by the Labour Relations Act.

“Lonmin could not simply cancel the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] agreement and commence wage agreements with the RDOs [rock drill operators],” he said.

“Had Lonmin engaged with the striking mineworkers on the 10th of August, we would’ve immediately blurred the two types of strike and that would’ve had far reaching implications for the industry and country,” Burger quoted Barnard Mokwena as having said.

Mokwena was Lonmin’s executive president of human capital and external affairs at the time of the August 2012 strike.

Another Lonmin lawyer, Azar Bam, admitted that Lonmin’s security staff were not equipped to deal with the strike.

“They were not equipped to deal with an outbreak of violence to that extent,” Bam said.

Lonmin had been criticised for being inadequately equipped to deal with the events that unfolded and to cope with injuries to people between August 9 and 13.

Bam said Lonmin demilitarised its operations in 2005 and moved to dealing with crime on a lower level.

“Was Lonmin equipped to deal with events as they unfolded? The answer is obviously not,” he said.

He argued that Lonmin had only 60 security guards at the time and ought not to have been expected to deal with events that were so extensive and covered such a wide area.

A lawyer for two of the security guards and one of the non-striking miners who was killed by strikers argued that the police had failed to implement their plan.

“The commission must find that the police in their omission to implement their own plan from the 10th of August, created conditions that resulted in heightened tensions in Marikana,” Tshepiso Ramphele told the commission during final arguments.

Ramphele represents the families of two Lonmin security guards, Hassan Fundi and Frans Mabelane, and non-striking miner Eric Mabebe, who were killed by striking mineworkers on August 12, 2012.

“The plan was meant to be implemented on a 24-hour basis. It’s so important that they could not let their eye off the ball. Yet the police failed to execute this plan,” Ramphele said.

The failure to implement the plan resulted in lawlessness among the strikers which “weakened a late intervention”, he said.

He said this lack of police intervention is what lead to the deaths of his clients.

Police had a duty to protect non-striking workers, he said.

Sapa

 

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