Civil case against Ramaphosa, Sibanye-Stillwater thrusts Marikana massacre back into spotlight

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The miners affected by the tragic Marikana Massacre have faced off against President Cyril Ramaphosa at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The tragic events at Marikana in North West are back in the spotlight as miners take on the President and Sibanye-Stillwater mines over the massacre that claimed 34 lives in August 2012.

Almost a decade later and workers are still seeking justice, accusing Ramaphosa of playing a role in the fatal event.

The civil case for damages worth R1-billion against Ramaphosa, Sibanye-Stillwater and government was initially brought to court last year but was postponed when it emerged that presiding Judge Colin Lamont owned R225 000 worth of shares in Sibanye-Stillwater.

Lamont later recused himself.

During the hearings, Advocate Dali Mpofu argued that the President is liable for the action by police that led to the death of 34 mine workers in Marikana in the North West when he sent emails calling for concomitant action almost ten years ago.

Mpofu is representing the over 300 miners who launched the class-action lawsuit against the three parties in the Gauteng High Court.

Mpofu says Ramaphosa acted in his capacity through his instructions and is therefore liable.

“The private interests whether they are businesses or individuals are held liable on the basis of aiding and abetting. If I say now, the Johannesburg City Council must go and burn shacks in a particular place because in there, there are people who are suspected of this, that and the other and I knowingly do that knowing that, that is going to result in other people, including innocent people that their houses will be destroyed intentionally then clearly, I can’t escape liability that it was not me…that would be ridiculous,” says Mpofu.

Legal cause

Ramaphosa’s legal counsel has argued that the emails he sent in which he called for concomitant action a day before the massacre are not the legal cause for the deaths. Advocate Wim Tengrove further asserted that Ramaphosa had no duty to the workers as Director at Lonmin at the time.

“But there is nothing in the emails suggesting unlawful conduct and I do wish to emphasise that. It’s not only that the emails didn’t incite murder, they didn’t suggest unlawful conduct of any kind and the high watermark of those emails is that they say we should impress upon government that this is not merely a labour dispute but there are crimes being committed which should be addressed as crimes. Not even a suggestion on the appropriate concomitant action. The directors of a company certainly owe fiduciary duties to the company but it is as a matter of law simply unfounded to contend that the individual director owes duties in dealing directly to the workers,” says Tengrove.

However, it is this re-characterisation of a labour dispute as criminal by Ramaphosa in the emails that Mpofu argues led to the deliberate involvement of the state through the army and police and subsequent bloodshed.

Unconditional apology

Attorney for the miners, Advocate Andries Nkome echoed Mpofu’s claims and as a result, called for an unconditional apology from the President.

“It took place because of the collusion between state and capital. The government has taken liability for the massacre. The capital, we were talking about the President in his personal capacity because he was a director and shareholder of Lonmin as well as Lonmin itself. The miners are essentially asking for the President to unconditionally apologise for what transpired in Marikana. One of the main causes of the massacre was the President characterising as a director of Lonmin as well as a shareholder, the labour dispute as a dastardly criminal act and in the act he said the police must go and act with concomitant action which essentially means they must go and do what they would do to criminals,” says Nkome.

Miners are also demanding a reconciliatory process with the President.

The virtual proceedings are expected to continue on Friday.

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