Deputy president gets grilling at Rhodes, but given a hero’s welcome at big ANC meeting
Still haunted by the Marikana tragedy almost five years after it happened, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is planning a visit there.
Addressing Rhodes University students and academics in Grahamstown yesterday, Ramaphosa tried to explain his role in the events in 2012 that led to the deaths of 34 miners during an unprotected strike at the Lonmin mine.
Responding to politics student Lwandiso Mkhize, who appealed to Ramaphosa’s “conscience” in asking him to explain his role in the Marikana incident, the deputy president said: “My conscience is [that] I participated in trying to stop further deaths from happening.
“Ten workers had been killed and my intervention was to say there is a disaster looming, more workers have been killed.
“My role was to try and stop further deaths – some of the workers had been hacked to death, their eyes gouged out and their hearts ripped out.
“I was horrified – and you may say that doesn’t matter now, but it did horrify me as a person.
“I said we needed to prevent this from happening,” he said.
“Yes, I may have used unfortunate language in the messages that I sent out, for which I apologised.
“Even now, I apologise that I did not use appropriate language, but I never had the intention to have 34 miners killed.”
Ramaphosa said he had worked for nine years for mineworkers, serving them diligently.
“I did everything to make sure their wages increased and improving their living conditions,” he said. “For nine years of my life, I put everything that I had to make sure their lives improved.”
He said he was willing to listen to senior ANC leaders who could give him guidance on how he should handle the Marikana matter further.
“This is where, as a leader, I am prepared to listen to the advice and counsel of other leaders,” Ramaphosa said.
“Mama Winnie Mandela has said to me, ‘deputy president, this matter needs to be addressed. I want to take you to Marikana’, that is what she said to me.
“I have said, ‘Mama, I will accept your counsel in this regard’.
“This is a matter that she wants to do because she also felt pained by what happened.
“So I am willing to be led by her when she said ‘deputy president, you need to address this matter’ and I have accepted.”
He did not say when he would be going to Marikana to address the mineworkers.
Some students and academics did not accept his explanation or apology.
Former Sasco leader Athi Daniso said: “I am not happy at all, I did not get what he was saying about his role. To come and say you apologised, that means nothing to the poor people of Marikana.
“It is very disappointing to come from a deputy president of the ANC. To speak of inclusiveness without justice.
“My view is he is too liberal to be president of the country.”
Another student, Lowell Scarr, also felt Ramaphosa could have taken more responsibility in his response.
“He brushed over things, as a result people did not feel in their hearts that he was apologising,” Scarr said.
“He needed to take responsibility, to say something like that should never have happened.”
Ramaphosa also took veiled swipes at the state of the ANC and urged students to let their voices be heard.
“The impasse between the government, university management and students has persisted for too long,” he said. “Where we seem to have been captured, you must reclaim.
“There are certain elements of our state and some individuals that have been captured. “We can’t hand over our wealth to certain individuals and families. Your role is to make sure you reclaim it.”
Later, he addressed thousands of ANC supporters in Joza township during a “cadres forum”.
Supporters in the packed Joza multi-purpose centre chanted, “We don’t want Zuma, we want Cyril.”
The Rev Nkosinathi Ngesi, who did the prayer and devotions at the meeting, welcomed Ramaphosa, hailing him as “Moses”.
“You are our Moses, take us to the promised land,” Ngesi said. “We thank God for you. “We are tired of seeing our money going to India.
“The batons in leadership must change, but you cannot give it to your wife after you have led,” he said, in an apparent reference to President Jacob Zuma’s backing for his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s run for the ANC leadership.
Visibly overwhelmed by the support he received at the forum, Ramaphosa said it was clear the ANC was very much alive in the Sarah Baartman region.
“I go to cadres’ forums, but this one is different.
“I think the real ANC resides in this region,” he said to loud cheers.
He said the ANC that was needed was that of Oliver Tambo, which was not corrupt or factional.
“There is contamination in the atmosphere of our movement,” Ramaphosa said.
“Tambo did not divide our movement, he provided clear leadership and embedded values in the ANC – values of not lying or stealing money.
“His leadership was not embroiled in scandals, it was disciplined.”
He urged supporters to prepare for the upcoming policy conference and the December elective conference.
“You must elect a trustworthy leadership that will take away the dream of opposition parties, who want to lead this country in 2019,” Ramaphosa said.
Also present were NEC members Gugile Nkwinti, Enoch Godongwana, Zizi Kodwa, Fikile Xasa, as well as ANC PEC members Fikile Desai, Lindelwa Dunjwa and legislature speaker Noxolo Kiviet.
Former Nelson Mandela Bay ANC regional secretary Zandisile Qupe was also spotted in the crowd.
Sarah Baartman regional chairman Mlungisi Mvoko said they had invited Ramaphosa because of the polluted state of the ANC.
Ramaphosa also urged those present to apologise to ANC members who had not voted for the party in the municipal elections.
“Let us go to the people like a lover who has done wrong and ask for love back,” he said.
“We must focus on motivating forces of change so that the ANC can be trusted again.”