Former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu accused platinum miner Lonmin of being responsible for the problems at Marikana, saying the mining company used divide-and-rule tactics that contributed to the August 2012 unrest.
“The employer is always responsible for problems (in the workplace),” Shabangu said during cross-examination by Mike van As, for Lonmin, at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria, standing by her statement in which she claimed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was “under siege by forces determined to remove it from the face of the earth.”
Lonmin’s behaviour to blame
The commission’s evidence leader Kameshni Pillay asked Shabangu who or what these forces were, and Shabangu said: “I was referring to Lonmin, the employer. At times, we look at rivalry of unions and we forget the key element, which is the employer. At the end of the day, the employer wins.”
Van As pointed out that Lonmin had called for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and NUM to hold talks, accusing Shabangu of jumping to conclusions before the commission had concluded its processes.
When asking her if she had prejudged the situation and would be willing to withdraw the statement, she merely replied: “I cannot do that.”
The 2012 Marikana tragedy
Shabangu was questioned on Tuesday about her role in the strike-related unrest at Lonmin’s mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg, in the North West. The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people in August 2012.
On August 16, 2012, thirty-four striking mineworkers were killed in a clash with the police, with at least an additional 70 suffering injuries and over 200 facing arrest. Police claim to have been trying to disperse and disarm the striking workers.
10 people had been killed in the preceding week, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards.
Facing the Farlam Commission of Inquiry
Tuesday’s proceedings were dedicated to Shabangu’s testimony, focusing on an e-mail Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had interests in the mine at the time, sent to Lonmin bosses during the unrest.
In his email, Ramaphosa said that Shabangu agreed “that what we are going through is not a labour dispute but a criminal act.” Dali Mpofu, for the miners injured and arrested at Marikana, told Shabangu that calling striking Lonmin miners criminals may have resulted in them being killed.
However, Shabangu denied calling them criminals and said that during the 2008 address she was referring to police protecting themselves against heavily armed criminals. She added, though that although it never stopped being a labour dispute, she believes that there were criminal elements because people were being killed.
But Mpofu is claiming that either Shabangu or Ramaphosa is lying.
Nevertheless, Shabangu maintained that Ramaphosa did not influence her to take action in Marikana ahead of the police shooting, saying “Well Mr. chairman, whoever asked Ramaphosa to influence me, I think he failed to do so because I was never influenced by him. I said I was going to brief the minister and the president so I never said they must act in that way.”
Shabangu authorised ‘kill shots’
Mpofu also pointed the commission to an article published in April 2008 when Shabangu was still deputy police minister, which said: “You must kill the bastards if they threaten you or the community. You must not worry about the regulations. That is my responsibility. Your responsibility is to serve and protect.
“I want to assure the police station commissioners and policemen and women from these areas that they have permission to kill these criminals. I won’t tolerate any pathetic excuses for you not being able to deal with crime. You have been given guns, now use them.
“I want no warning shots. You have one shot and it must be a kill shot,” Mpofu read.
Some stakeholders neglected
Pillay asked why Shabangu didn’t meet with all the important stakeholders, neglecting the workers and Amcu, another union at Lonmin in the days after the massacre, having only recognised the NUM.
This was echoed by commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, who asked: “What about news reports at other mines where Amcu and NUM were involved … at Impala and Amplats?”
Shabangu maintained she did not know anything about Amcu’s involvement in the unrest at Lonmin, saying: “Our understanding was that Amcu did not exist, but there were workers’ committees. We knew about workers’ committees. We knew nothing about Amcu. For us, we’d never met with Amcu before. Amcu was never there during stakeholders’ meetings.”
Nevertheless, Amcu played the significant role during the August 2012 unrest, with union leader Joseph Mathunjwa going down on his knees to beg the hundreds of striking mineworkers to leave before the police killed them.
Shabangu admitted that she never “went to Marikana to meet with the strikers,” even after the deaths, although she had spent hours consulting the other affected parties. “We met with individuals who were on strike who were members of [the] NUM,” she said.
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