South Africa businessman and Deputy President of African National Congress (ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, has advised business operators to learn from the Marikana tragedy by looking out for the interest of their employees. He said the Marikana massacre is a wake-up call not only for the mining operators but for businesses at large.
“Marikana, in many ways, should be seen as a wake-up call to many business entities. In many ways, it should be a turning point for all of us,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa, who is also a director of the Lonmin mining group, which owns the Marikana mine, says the Marikana tragedy which left about 40 people dead last August at the Lonmin mine, is an example of when companies close their eyes to the need for “inclusivity.”
“Very much of what went wrong at Marikana was because mining companies closed their eyes to the need to be inclusive,” he said.
Ramaphosa who said this at an ANC business breakfast in Port Shepstone, on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast this week asserted that “My real call is ask yourselves what it is that you can do to be as inclusive as possible — in your own businesses and business more broadly — to include many more players in the economy.”
He asserted that what South Africa needs is “proactive” business people who are prepared to work for the growth of the continent’s biggest economy.
He argued that mining companies need to look “beyond the mine gates” by being more alert to the living conditions of their employees.
“You need to look at how the workers are living. Where do they live, are their children going to school, are they eating healthy food?” he asked. “Employers need to care more about the well-being of their workers — beyond the factory floor, beyond the mine gate.”
“Where we were not doing anything actively about improving the living conditions of workers, [businesses] should go back to the drawing board and ask themselves: ‘What is it that we can do to make sure that we improve the livelihoods and the living conditions of the people?'”
Ramaphosa, who is also the deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission, a commission that aims to move South Africa from being one of the most unequal societies in the world to one in which all citizens get opportunities to improve their lives, said the accommodation of the miners is “too appalling.”
“It needed to be attended to then; it needs to be attended to now,” he remarked.
Ramaphosa, had earlier spoken with CNN host Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, to defend his participation in the Marikana tragedy.
He said his e-mails to Lonmin managers that emerged from the commission into the shooting, where he called for the “concomitant action” against the “criminal” strikers; did not lead to the subsequent death of 34 miners by the police.
‘”Basically, all it boils down to is that prior to the killing of the 34 people by police guns, 10 people had died. And some of them had died in the most brutal way. And they had died in what I still see as a criminal way, because the way they were killed, policemen, security officials and, indeed, other workers working on the mine, was so terrible. And I was appealing to the authorities to take action, to make sure that we prevent further death,” a transcript published by CNN on the interview quoted Ramaphosa.
However, Political analyst Susan Booysen on Wednesday posited that Ramaphosa appeared to be on a campaign to rebuild his image after the Marikana events as he needed to improve his image and political credibility because people were “monitoring him”.
Ramaphosa was the first General Secretary of the South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers.