Marikana protesters jeered ANC deputy president and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, shouting he has blood on his hands as they disrupted his lecture on the National Development Plan.
“How do you sleep at night?” Claire Ceruti of the Democratic Left Front shouted at Ramaphosa as she stood by the stage where he was seated for the lecture.
She was eventually led out of the hall by security guards.
Ramaphosa, who gave the lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Great Hall last night in his capacity the deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission, avoided answering questions on last year’s Marikana shootings by police which saw more than 34 protesters killed.
Ramaphosa was on the board of Lonmin at the time, but resigned in January soon after being elected to the ANC’s top six. He donated R2 million towards the funeral costs of the miners soon after the tragedy happened.
His recommendation in an email for “concomitant action” against the strikers has been interpreted by some as implicating him as having sanctioned the police violence.
As the second last question was allowed after his lecture last night, the microphone was passed to a Marikana miner who asked a question on the shootings.
Referring to the commission of inquiry, Ramaphosa said “the story of the people of Marikana still has to be told. I can assure you that many people feel the pain of the people who continue to suffer as a result of Marikana, which is deeply regretted.”
A heckler interrupted him, shouting: “You called them criminals.”
The protesters – between 20 and 30 of them – also held up simple posters printed black on white paper saying: “Don’t let the politicians get away with murder.”
At some point during the lecture they started shaking these noisily, prompting Ramaphosa to ask them to allow “those who do not have papers” a chance to listen.
Despite the heckling, Ramaphosa continued talking steadily, saying he believed representations were being made at the Marikana commission, headed by Judge Ian Farlam, and that the matter needed to be addressed in a satisfactory way (by means of an inquiry).
There were ample security guards ahead of last night’s lecture, and entrance was only allowed through the back doors as organisers tried to avoid a repeat of what happened at Planning Minister Trevor Manuel’s lecture at the same venue last month.
Questions were not allowed following that lecture, which led to protesters – many of them the same ones as last night – hurling insults at Manuel. They were then led out of the hall.
For last night’s lecture an agreement was made with the protesters that they would be allowed in if they did not disrupt the lecture.
According to moderator, journalist Songezo Zibi, members of the protesting group were allowed the first three questions.
They had concerns about the funding of the Marikana miners at the commission, and also about the fact that the elevation of Ramaphosa, one of the richest men in South Africa, to the position of ANC deputy president last year, did not bode well for reducing the gap between rich and poor in South Africa.
Activist Rehad Desai sarcastically said: “The NDP is old wine in new bottles, and that’s what we are asking for.”
He added: “We are asking for more Marikanas, more shooting, more inequality, more brutality and less service delivery.”
In his lecture on the NDP, Ramaphosa urged South Africans to put shoulder to the wheel to make the plan work.
He urged the audience to talk about their differences, saying South Africa had always managed to debate and overcome challenges.
“The glass is not half empty, it is half full, and the National Development Plan will help us fill it,” he said.
The NDP envisages creating 11 million more jobs by 2030 so that 24 million people will be employed.
Urging members of the audience to read more, and to read the NDP, Ramaphosa revealed he read 30 books a year, which was more than most members of audiences he had spoken to, he said.
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