Cyril needs to choose now
Dali Mpofu’s drama at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the events at Marikana in August notwithstanding, Cyril Ramaphosa does not have blood on his hands.
Mpofu and his chorus in the ANC Youth League have chosen to interpret a clutch of emails between Ramaphosa and Lonmin executives to suggest he is somehow complicit in the miners’ deaths. It’s a stretch.
The emails are what they are: executive concern about escalating worker violence at the mine, which had claimed 10 lives before the police opened fire and gunned down 34 more people.
They are not an instruction to open fire.
To recap, the emails set out communication in which Ramaphosa recounted that he had been in touch with the highest levels of state and party power.
This had been an effort to extricate Lonmin (of which he is a director, BEE partner and adviser) from the precarious position it had found itself in.
Ramaphosa had used his access to the ministers of mineral resources and police, as well as the uber-powerful secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, to push for a tougher line against the strikers who had grown increasingly belligerent.
The shock at the emails is partly because Ramaphosa is regarded as a de facto South African prime minister, the man whom many citizens had invested great hope in as almost a paternal figure.
He stands as a symbol of South Africa’s finest leadership. He has always been a sage figure and a founding father, though he is not old.
While others have been drubbed for dominating BEE deals, Ramaphosa has never met the same criticism as the nation has a vested trust and interest in him. Now he is exposed for being entirely one-dimensional.
He is a businessman and a tough one at that.
He comes across as myopic for characterising the Lonmin dispute as one of law and order and not as a wage dispute.
There is something of the image of a wheeler-dealer about the emails, of someone who will parlay his influence over the state to secure favourable outcomes for his company. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s not bloody.
Ramaphosa’s challenge is not to prove his innocence but to make a choice.
He cannot be both a high-ranking political leader in the governing party and a businessman with his hats in so many commercial rings.
It’s time for him to make a choice.