President Cyril Ramaphosa is determined to play whatever role he can in the process of healing and atonement in the wake of the Marikana massacre.

“The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy,” Ramaphosa told both houses of Parliament on Tuesday as he responded to the debate on his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Friday.

During Monday’s debate, EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said Ramaphosa must go to Marikana to build houses and improve the lives of the people there. Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of the mining company Lonmin when police opened fire on striking mineworkers, killing 34 people on August 16, 2012.

Ramaphosa wrote a series of nine emails to other Lonmin executives and then minister of police Nathi Mthethwa and Susan Shabangu, who was then minister of mineral resources, in the days leading to the tragedy, calling for “concomitant action” against the striking mineworkers in one of the emails.

A commission of inquiry, established to investigate the massacre and headed by retired Judge Ian Farlam, did not make a finding against Ramaphosa.

“Members will recall that the commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Farlam investigated the direct and root causes of the tragedy,” Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.

Mining communities in distress

“Three broad areas were identified for action: compensation to those injured and the families of those who lost their lives, examining the procedures of public order policing and preparing valid cases for prosecution according to applicable laws.”

He said the government was making progress in continuous engagement with the legal representatives of the victims, especially on the matter of reparations to families who lost their loved ones, and this would be concluded in the coming months.

“The incident also brought into sharp focus the distress felt by people living in mining communities.

“As we engage with mining companies, unions and communities on the finalisation of the Mining Charter, we need to ensure that these measures receive priority attention.”

“I would like to use this opportunity to address the role that I played in my capacity as a Lonmin director in the events of that tragic week,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam Commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded, I am determined to play whatever role I can play in the process of healing and atonement. In this, I am guided by the needs and wishes of the families of the 34 workers who lost their lives.”

He said that as with Marikana, the Life Esidimeni tragedy stands out “as an instance of the appalling dereliction by the state of its duty to the people.”

“We welcome the arbitration process led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke and are determined that we should never allow anything like this to happen again in our country.”