Over the past two days the presence of Cyril Ramaphosa at the Marikana Inquiry has held a significant presence in the news.
Advocate Dali Mpofu’s cross examination of him was frought with some tough themes, propositions, emotive adjective and idiom which Judge Farlam often called Mpofu on. I have watched, with interest varying views with many calling Mpofu to keep his anger in check and insinuating that there is some kind of personal-politico stand-off going on between opposing political agenda. Following are my views.
Mpofu at the outset told Ramaphosa his cross-questiong would comprise four broad themes:
- Action, or alternatively inaction where there was a duty to act
- State of mind or intention, etc
- Causality. He would explore the causal nexus between Ramaphosa’s action, or alternatively inaction and the consequences ie deaths and injury
- Outcomes, or consequences
Mpofu referred to a publication penned by Ramphosa in the wake of the Marikana tragedy and spent much time unpacking Ramaphosa’s sense of responsibility. There were concessions. However the concessions fell short of the strong personal responsibility that Mpofu was building a case for with Ramaphosa conceding “Collective Responsibility”
On state of mind and intention Mpofu explored Ramaphosa’s business interests, financial interest in the situation and what he referred to as a “web of relationships” which Rampahosa was caught up in that seem to be “incestuous”. He spent much time exploring conflict of interests. On this theme Ramaphosa attempted to raise an extra-aneous discussion around Mpofu’s impending status as silk. His raising of this in my view was a clear attempt at mischief making and it was conceded by himself that the discussions were initiated by him. With Judge Farlam’s own son on the list awaiting the president’s signauture, Judge Farlam ultimately diffused the situation well by affirming that everyone would be grateful if the Deputy President did what he could to promote the President’s action and due consideration of all on the list. This was done elegantly, graciously and light-heartedly. My view is that Ramaphosa’s attempts to humiliate Mpofu here achieved nothing except for possible reflection on capacity for dirty play.
But I wish to give a more personal account. I met Dali Mpofu on the Saturday before the start of the Marikana Inquiry. I was introduced to him by a mutual colleague on the issue of Alternative Dispute Resolution, something we have a mutual belief in. I didn’t know him, who he was, or any of his history at all. During the time I spent with him, I was struck by a brilliant legal mind and a deeply compassionate heart. We chatted about Marikana and I will never forget his words “Sheena, the public thinks this was a wage dispute. It’s so much more. It is a 300 year old story of systematic economic exploitation and exclusion. And we have a responsibility to ensure the story is told”
Later I met with Senior Counsel Dumisa Ntsebeza also on Alternative Dispute Resolution. We spoke about Access to Justice in the Marikana Matter and the danger that the powerful narrative of the miners would be muted or shut down.
Seeing Mpofu angry yesterday did nothing to compromize my respect for him. Sometimes anger is the right response. And for all his political alignment which may be at odds with the Deputy President, I can’t but see beyond the political stuff that may be at play and know that Mpofu is a deeply compassionate courageous lawyer and I honour his proceeding through this under very tough circumstances. Mpofu and Ntsebeza both relayed to me accounts of individual miners and families with an authenticity that I was unable to interpret as anything other than compassion.
Mpofu accused Ramphosa of selling out for 30 pieces of silver. Tragically, I don’t think the Idiom is misplaced. I work in alternative dispute resolution and access to justice. In exploring causality with Ramaphosa, Mpofu unpacked a chain of events and communique linking his action and sometimes inaction to the tragedy. Action in the form of exerting political pressure and the like and inaction in the form of his failure to assess, understand or promote negotiation. One of the most significant aspects of his action was his campaigning for the situation to cease being regarded as a labour dispute, and for it to be declared as criminal activity
In my work we deal with public violence and illegal gathering matters. Mpofu spelt out a very alarming tendency for the source of gathering and marching to be displaced and for gatherers and marchers to be viewed as criminals. The focus is completely taken off the originating cause which is often human rights violations or unfair labour practice, but in general, inhumanity. And if the powers that be can convince us that it is not what it is, but is actually criminal activity, then we will go on accepting police heavy- handedness which is accompanied by killing, injury and detention. The sum total is that the authentic voice of the people is brutalized, suppressed, maybe completely shut down.
I run two organizations. One in alternative dispute resolution (ADR and Mediation) and one in Access to Justice) Both remain apolitical. I remain apolitical. That’s important in what I do. I do what I can to bring light to dark places and to interrupt ensuing injustice. But it’s not enough. I do know though that the voice of the people will take on a life of its own. There is a growing collective no to this stuff and it’s in all of our interests, as a nation to get in the corner of those saying no to injustice.