4 Nov 2014

Should Ramaphosa face murder charges over Marikana massacre?

Lawyers investigating the 2012 Marikana massacre say Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s deputy president, could face charges at the International Criminal Court following the killings of 34 miners.

Lawyers at an inquiry investigating the killing of 34 miners in South Africa in 2012 have revealed that they will argue for murder charges to be brought against senior police commanders and politicians, including possible charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the country’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

In exclusive interviews with Channel 4 News, Dali Mpofu and George Bizos told reporter Inigo Gilmore that they will argue this week for prosecutions against senior security and ministerial figures in a final push for justice for the murdered miners and their bereaved families.

Lawyers for the injured and arrested mine workers, represented by Dali Mpofu, want the commission, which is headed by a retired judge, to recommend that Mr Ramaphosa be charged with murder in connection with the killing of 34 miners on 16 August 2012.

At final hearings, due to start on Wednesday, Mr Mpofu’s team will also seek recourse for Mr Ramaphosa to face charges at the ICC if the South African system fails to deliver.

Mr Mpofu told Channel 4 News: “There must be prosecutions, there must be compensation and, more importantly, there must be an exposition of who the real culprits are outside of the people who pulled the trigger.”

‘Crime against humanity’

In his submission to the commission, Mr Mpofu’s team argues that the Marikana massacre was “a crime against humanity” and that the ICC has jurisdiction as the killings were “self-evidently a systematic attack resulting in the murder of a civilian population”.

Referring to attempts to bring Mr Ramaphosa before the ICC, Mr Mpofu said: “Our clients’ feeling is that some of them may not face proper justice in South Africa. So one or two might be recommended for prosecution in the International Criminal Court.”

At the time of the massacre, Mr Ramaphosa was out of politics and on the board of Lonmin, the British-based company that owns the Marikana mine.

The commission has seen emails sent by Mr Ramaphosa to Lonmin board members which apparently show that he used his connections to lobby government ministers to take action against striking miners.

Fresh analysis from Channel 4 News of police video taken during the Marikana massacre sparks nationwide debate in South Africa. Inigo Gilmore returns to the scene to hear from key witnesses.

In one email he described the ongoing strike in Marikana as a “criminal act”; explains how he has spoken to a senior minister to make sure President Jacob Zuma “will be briefed”; and how he encouraged the police minister to act in a “more pointed way”. Lawyers say his intervention set in motion a chain of commands, resulting in the catastrophic police action.

Repeated requests from Channel 4 News for an interview with Cyril Ramaphosa have been ignored.

Damning allegations

From the moment horrific pictures of heavily-armed officers shooting dead miners were beamed around the world, the South African police have always insisted they acted in self-defence. But after 56 witnesses and 40,000 pages of evidence, commission lawyers say the police case is now in tatters.

Lawyers say video evidence and eyewitness testimony clearly shows miners were trying to leave the protest scene peacefully prior to the massacre, before they were herded towards police lines and shot.

Other damning allegations have emerged: four mortuary vans were ordered to Marikana hours before the shooting, and 4,000 extra rounds of ammunition. Lawyers claim the police went on a killing frenzy. It is emerged that most miners were shot in the back or in the head, some in the back of the head.

‘Reponsible policing’

Despite these horrific details at a police gathering just two days after the massacre, the national police commissioner Riah Phyiega – in police video obtained by Channel 4 News and never previously broadcast – praised her team, saying that their actions were “the best of responsible policing”.

George Bizos, Nelson’s Mandela’s lawyer for over 50 years and now a leading commission lawyer, was also dismissive of police claims that they acted in self-defence and said he will argue that Riah Phyiega should face murder charges alongside some of her commanders.

He said of police claims that they were acting in self-defence: “We have identified that some of the people were shot not only once. There were multiple shots. How can you say it was self-defence?”

When asked to respond to the prospect of charges being brought against her, Ms Phyiega told Channel 4 News: “We have made our submission to the commission. We are waiting for the commission to come out with their findings and we will be able to respond on that much more elaborately at that time.”

The move to push for Mr Ramaphosa’s prosecution has been backed by his one-time struggle comrade, Joe Seoka, formerly a priest in Soweto and now the Bishop of Pretoria. The bishop was in Marikana as a mediator on the day of the massacre and in the days after, and says that even after the killings Mr Ramaphosa continued to label striking miners as “killers and murderers”.

‘Ramaphosa is liable’

“Given the content of the emails, and the stories that Cyril (Ramaphosa) was busy talking to ministers concerned and police, so he is liable. He also should be charged for murder,” Bishop Soeka told Channel 4 News.

In a searing critique of the current ruling elite, Bishop Seoka said Marikana had disturbing implications. He said: “What has become of our struggle heroes? Evidently money has become more important than people’s lives.”

The notion that some of Nelson Mandela’s successors could be linked to such accusations is seen as a betrayal of everything the revered struggle leader fought for.