Survivors want Ramaphosa in the dock for role in Marikana deaths

The surviving Lonmin mineworkers suing President Cyril Ramaphosa are preparing to haul him to the commercial court for his role in the 2012 Marikana massacre.

The group of 349 mineworkers survived the police’s volley of bullets that killed 34 of their colleagues in the Rustenburg mining town in August 2012.

They seek to hold Ramaphosa personally liable for damages, demanding R1-billion in compensation and, most importantly, a formal apology.

If successful, the civil action is expected to be a launchpad for possible criminal charges against Ramaphosa.

Lawyers for the mineworkers told Sunday World this week the next step was to classify the civil case as a commercial case.

A formal submission is due before Gauteng deputy judge president Roland Sutherland, said lawyer Andries Nkome.

“We will thereafter apply for preferential dates for the trial, where the president will have to come and testify in person.”

He said the mineworkers would argue that the damage they suffered was due to Ramaphosa protecting his personal interests.

“The matter goes to the commercial court because, at the heart of the actions taken, Ramaphosa acted to protect his own personal commercial interests. Had it not been for the fact that Ramaphosa was protecting his shares in Lonmin, he would not have made the utterances that he made,” Nkome said.

He was referring to Ramaphosa’s email to Lonmin’s executives on August 15, 2012 – a day before police killed the striking mineworkers.

“The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such. In line with this characterisation, there needs to be concomitant action to address this situation,” stated the email.

“You are absolutely correct in insisting that the minister and indeed all government officials need to understand that we are essentially dealing with a criminal act. I have said as much to the minister of safety and security.”

Nkome said yesterday once it was confirmed during the civil proceedings that Ramaphosa knew what the outcomes of his actions would be, it would be a basis to proceed to the criminal court.

“The criminal route will come later,” he said, adding it was likely that the matter would come before the courts within the next six months, which will most likely be during the general elections period.

In the same matter last July, the high court found that Ramaphosa might be responsible for the lead-up to the bloody Marikana massacre.

The Johannesburg high court found then that a case could be made that he “participated in, masterminded and championed the toxic collusion” between mining company Lonmin and the police, which led to the Marikana massacre.

The 349 surviving Lonmin mineworkers were thereafter, ironically, arrested for the police’s murder of their colleagues under the apartheid common purpose law.

The group also claimed damages against Sibanye Stillwater, which acquired Lonmin a few years after the massacre.

Before the Johannesburg high court, Ramaphosa raised eight grounds of exception, citing why the application should be dismissed, while Sibanye raised 10.

In terms of the notice of exceptions, Ramaphosa and Sibanye wanted mineworkers to remove vague and embarrassing allegations from the application.

During the proceedings, each exception was probed, and findings were made. Judge Frits van Oosten then upheld four of the president’s exceptions but rejected one.

He found that Ramaphosa had taken part in, planned and endorsed the cooperation between the Lonmin mine in Marikana and the SAPS, which had culminated in the deaths, injuries, arrests, and detention of striking mineworkers.

“I agree, and it is accordingly my finding, that the [mineworkers] have satisfied the test of legal causation,” said Van Oosten.

The ruling enabled the surviving mineworkers to hold Ramaphosa, who was then a Lonmin board member, personally liable for what they suffered.

Ramaphosa became deputy president in 2014 and replaced former president Jacob Zuma in 2018.

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