Ramaphosa defends himself against claims he sold out Lonmin workers
IN RESPONSE to allegations that he had sold out workers at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana near Rustenburg, Cyril Ramaphosa has hinted that he fought for some of the benefits mine workers enjoy today.
Speaking in a radio interview with SAfm on Thursday, the once popular trade unionist said he was merely "the highest tree that catches the fiercest wind" in the Marikana tragedy.
"I spent nine years with mine workers fighting for their rights," Mr Ramaphosa said.
Mr Ramaphosa, a 9% shareholder in Lonmin, had been lumped with union bosses and mine owners, criticised for their poor response to last month’s labour unrest at the mine.
His involvement as a shareholder in Lonmin had raised questions about the capacity of black economic empowerment deal makers to drive change in the mining industry in favour of black workers.
Lonmin financed Mr Ramaphosa to the tune of R2.5bn to buy a stake in the business, and Mr Ramaphosa’s company, Shanduka, contributed a further R300m.
Mr Ramaphosa said on Thursday there were only three black representatives on the company’s board, and they were "working on the side of our people".
He said bringing about change was "not like you could wave a magic wand".
However, expelled African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema has placed blame on the Lonmin massacre squarely at Mr Ramaphosa’s door.
"Lonmin had a high political connection. That is why our people were killed. They were killed to protect the shares of Cyril Ramaphosa," Mr Malema said following the shooting of 34 protesters by police.
Mr Malema then raised as an "irony" that Mr Ramaphosa could afford a R20m buffalo but could not pay the R12,500 wages demanded by the striking workers.
Cyril Ramaphosa in April bid R19.5m for a prized buffalo cow and her calf in April but was beaten by Jaco Troskie, who paid about R20m.
On Thursday Mr Ramaphosa said he regretted bidding for the buffalo and that it "was a mistake". "It is one of those moments when I was blind-sighted," he said.
Mr Ramaphosa said the conditions in the mining industry were not yesterday’s creation and could not be fixed overnight. "Marikana must be a turning point," he said.
However, he said Tuesday’s wage settlement that brought an end to the unprotected strike was "a bad and dangerous precedent".
He said it was bad that workers could complain and opt out of the regular bargaining platforms and still get what they wanted.
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