Cyril Ramaphosa must regret what he said ahead of the Marikana massacre five years ago. In 2012, he could not have known how the wheel of fortune would turn, and whose support he might need in his 2017 bid for the ANC presidency.
But he certainly alienated many when he sent e-mails calling for “concomitant action” to “contain” an already violent situation. Let’s be clear, by that time Ramaphosa had already made an enemy of Julius Malema.
Six months earlier, Ramaphosa chaired the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals, which upheld Malema’s expulsion from the ANC. From that moment, an angry Malema sought revenge.
So while the nation was looking for who to blame for the murders of 34 miners, Malema singled out Lonmin nonexecutive director Ramaphosa. It was Malema, more than anyone, who made a noise about Ramaphosa.
In this task he was ably assisted by advocate Dali Mpofu, who became the national chairman of Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Mpofu accused Ramaphosa of criminalising a labour dispute, and thereby precipitating the mass shootings that shocked the nation.
The advocate wanted Ramaphosa to be charged with murder for his role. These accusations have stuck, even though Ramaphosa was cleared by the commission of inquiry.
In May this year, as his campaign for the ANC presidency began to gather momentum, Ramaphosa apologised “that I did not use appropriate language”.
He said he wanted to go to Marikana with “Mama” Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. That attempt at atonement has not turned out well.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa, and the widows of miners killed in 2012, didn’t want Ramaphosa to attend today’s commemoration.
In political terms, Ramaphosa’s culpability or otherwise is not at issue, but Marikana is a burden. Just as the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge’s epic poem had an albatross around his neck to denote a curse, Ramaphosa, in the eyes of many, carries the accursed stigma of Marikana.
The fifth anniversary of the massacre is a particularly bad time for this to be highlighted. Ramaphosa is embroiled in an intense battle to succeed not-my-president Jacob Zuma, and his Marikana association is a liability.
For opposition parties, this is not necessarily a bad thing. We have already seen how, to some extent, the direction of politics is influenced by Malema’s likes and dislikes.
At times he seems driven by his antipathy towards Zuma because it was Zuma who presided over his expulsion from the ANC. And we have already noted that Ramaphosa ensured the expulsion was upheld.
So, because Malema does not like Ramaphosa, there is unlikely to be much rapprochement between the EFF and the ANC if Cyril succeeds Zuma as party president. Good.
The last thing this country needs is for the tottering ANC to be bolstered in any way. The word ‘concomitant’, has ironic relevance. It means “naturally accompanying or associated with”.
What eventuality would you naturally associate with expelling someone from a political party? Revenge, of course. Marikana has proved useful in this cause.