UPDATE 1-Protesters disrupt “massacre” evidence by South Africa’s Ramaphosa – by Joe Brock (Reuters India – August 11, 2014)


JOHANNESBURG, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Protesters chanting “Blood on his hands” briefly halted South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s evidence on Monday at an inquiry into the police shooting of 34 striking mine workers two years ago.

Ramaphosa was a non-executive director at Lonmin when negotiations to halt a violent wildcat strike at its Marikana platinum mine ended in police shooting the strikers dead on Aug. 16, 2012. The killings, the deadliest security action since the end of apartheid in 1994, have become known as the “Marikana massacre”.

Trade unionist-turned-billionaire Ramaphosa, seen as the likely eventual successor to President Jacob Zuma, is the most prominent witness to be called by the investigation that began in October 2012 and was supposed to last four months.

As well as investigating the shootings, the commission of inquiry has a remit to look into labour relations, pay and accommodation in South Africa’s mines – issues seen as spurring the strike that preceded the killings and that have lingered through months of strikes again this year.

Ramaphosa, who led a historic strike for fairer pay for black miners under apartheid in 1987, has faced accusations of putting political pressure on the police to use force against striking miners before the shooting.

One protester shouted “liar!” at Ramaphosa as he answered questions about his time at Lonmin, before more than a dozen people wearing T-shirts denigrating U.S.-style capitalism began chanting: “Blood on his hands.”

Retired judge Ian Farlam, who is leading the investigation, halted the inquiry for several minutes until the crowd, in a public gallery overlooking the conference hall, calmed down.

Ramaphosa told the inquiry his intervention was intended to prevent further loss of life, after at least nine people had been killed in the days before the police shooting, including two police officers and Lonmin security guards.

“With a grave situation unfolding at the mine, I felt duty bound to help. To prevent further loss of life,” Ramaphosa said, explaining why he made contact with Lonmin leadership and cabinet members.

He left his position at Lonmin in January last year, shortly after becoming deputy president of the African National Congress. No one has been prosecuted over the Marikana shooting.

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