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Ramaphosa acted unwisely: LRC

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The Farlam Commission of Inquiry should report to President Jacob Zuma that his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa acted unwisely regarding Marikana, the commission heard on Thursday.

“The question is whether Mr Ramaphosa should be held accountable for use of political pressure on the police,” Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, for the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), told the commission in Pretoria.

Ramaphosa was a non-executive director and shareholder in Lonmin at the time of the strike-related violence at Lonmin’s mining operations at Marikana, North West, in August 2012.

He phoned the minister of police to ask that police presence be increased around Marikana as a deterrent to strike violence.

Commission chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam, asked what he thought the commission could practically do in this regard, as Ngcukaitobi agreed Ramaphosa could not be held civilly or criminally liable.

“Do you want us to tell the world… you [Ramaphosa] acted badly?” Farlam asked.

George Bizos, SC, suggested the word “unwisely”.

Ngcukaitobi said: “One does not know where this ends… from an ethical point of view it was wholly inappropriate. It can be recorded that it was improper for him to exercise political pressure.

“We don’t suggest Mr Ramaphosa should be held criminally responsible, but he should be held accountable.”

The commission is investigating the deaths of 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012. More than 70 people were wounded and more than 200 were arrested. The police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.

On Wednesday evidence leader Geoff Budlender submitted that political pressure, arising from phone calls between Ramaphosa and the minister of police, prompted police to act against the strikers.

He concluded that Ramaphosa could not have foreseen the bloodshed that arose from the police action.

In its heads of argument, the LRC said Lonmin and police bore responsibility for the deaths and injuries.

This was because Lonmin had a responsibility to ensure the safety of its employees, and allegedly aided and advised the police on their dealings with the strikers.

Ngcukaitobi argued that Lonmin had not been exhaustive in its efforts to resolve tensions with its workers through negotiation.

The LRC recommended that Lonmin and police compensate the dependants of those killed on August 16.

Earlier, Bizos urged the commission to make a finding against the police. He said that during apartheid it was common for commissions to find there was no one to blame.

“A finding by this commission that the police are not responsible for any of the deaths will undermine the administration in our country and the rule of law.”

South Africans would find this “completely unacceptable”.

Bizos said there was “not a single scratch on any policeman” and asked what inference could be drawn from this.

In the morning session, Michelle le Roux, for the SA Human Rights Commission, submitted that police had “drip-fed” evidence to the commission to suit its case.

“It seemed this drip-feeding was in response to damaging facts emerging in the commission.”

She presented a range of proposed recommendations for police, drawn up by policing expert Gary White. These included an overhaul of police training on human rights and the use of firearms.

At the end of last month, Zuma granted the commission its final extension. Public hearings have to be completed by next Friday.

After the arguments, the commission has until March 30, 2015 to write its report. The findings will then be handed to Zuma.

The commission resumes on Monday, when Lonmin is expected to present its final arguments. SAPA

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