WHY I GESTURED THE FINGER ON MR. CYRIL RAMAPHOSA AND WHY I WITHDREW IT:
The middle-finger gesture to the deputy president has subsequently been withdrawn, but truth prevails, writes Floyd Shivambu.
When he was answering questions in the National Assembly, ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa went about repeating what he previously said concerning the Marikana massacre, trying to recruit all South Africans to own up to a deed he primarily instigated as a director of Lonmin.
As Economic Freedom Fighters MPs, we knew that Ramaphosa would try to waffle in his responses, and we chose to ask more direct questions so that we could get direct and pointed answers and responses.
Our approach to Parliament from the beginning is that we will never refer to a spade as a gardening tool, because such leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
The time of a sleeping Parliament which avoids vivid truth has come to an end.
Now, after Ramaphosa waffled, the EFF Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema in no uncertain terms made assertions that are truthful and reflect reality with regard to Ramaphosa’s role in the massacre of workers in Marikana.
Our assertions reflect reality because if he had not sent e-mails to politicians in the security cluster, defining the labour dispute in Marikana as a criminal action which required concomitant action, the rabid and barbaric way in which the South African police reacted could never have happened.
I personally saw the pain of the injured mineworkers and went from police station to police station checking on the well-being of the mineworkers who were arrested for surviving the massacre.
Working with colleagues and even before the formation of the EFF as a political movement, we made arrangements for the first group of legal representatives that got the arrested and injured workers freed from police stations and jail cells.
The pain I saw and experienced working with the workers to regain stability and focus still echoes in my soul and mind today. I was part of the workers when we opened a police case of murder at the Marikana police station, a case which has not yet been attended to.
Whenever I see the culprits, I remember what the workers went through. I went to all the court appearances of the workers who survived, and watched with awe when the SAPS denied them access to water to wash the wounds they attained during the massacre. The pain of the widows of those massacred still breaks my heart.
It was in that context that I gestured a middle finger towards Ramaphosa when we were leaving the chambers on the order of the Speaker of the National Assembly.
I have seen the statements of the Chief Whip of the ANC and SACP claiming that I gestured the middle finger towards the Speaker. I do not know what they seek to achieve in such utter misrepresentations, and will be ready to expose whatever happens after this process.
To me, the gesture meant that Ramaphosa’s greed and hunger for profits led to the massacre. I subsequently withdrew the gesture because I strongly believe that we should not use Parliament to express offensive gestures and signs. There are platforms where we can show Ramaphosa the middle finger, but Parliament is not one of them.
The many reactions which followed the middle-finger incident are mainly sentimental and based on the fact that he is older, and to state it clearly, I have no respect for politicians who use age to analyse any development.
Who is this Ramaphosa everyone is demanding we should respect on the basis of his age?
Ramaphosa is a careerist lawyer and politician who from the mid- 1970s had access to and interaction with representatives of white monopoly capital in South Africa. Those who understand politics will know that white monopoly capital, more than the political subjects it controls, is the primary enemy of any progressive change that will wholly uplift South Africa for the benefit of all.
For careerist purposes, Ramaphosa started the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), coincidentally during a period when Anglo American was beginning to open up on the question of industrial relations, in particular with black mineworkers.
In hindsight it is clearer that to Ramaphosa and most of the founding leaders of the NUM, the union was more of an entrepreneurial adventure than a genuine movement of the people.
Ramaphosa was never a mineworker, and was never subjected to the pain mineworkers undergo every day. This can also be best explained by the direction past NUM leaders take after union leadership. They often join boards of companies they claimed were enemies during their union days, and become the most brutal exploiters.
Ramaphosa is said to be the constitution man, the great negotiator who presided over the Constitutional Assembly that brought about the constitution.
What many people do not acknowledge and recognise is that the constitution basically constitutionalised inequalities that had existed before 1994. Placing in the constitution the clause that makes it almost impossible to redress the injustices of the past economic inequalities is treacherous. Ramaphosa’s role in the constitutional drafting process was primarily to safeguard the ill-gotten wealth of the white minorities.
When Ramaphosa threw tantrums over the fact that he was overlooked for the position of deputy president, missing and boycotting the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as first democratically elected president, white monopoly capital was ready to welcome him. From there on, he sat on the boards of virtually all big businesses and was recipient of many BEE deals, not because he was this brilliant entrepreneur, but because he insulated white wealth in the constitutional processes.
There is nothing entrepreneurial about Ramaphosa’s involvement in business because he was co-opted into existing white businesses. He therefore becomes the comprador bourgeoisie – unproductive, sucks up to colonial capital, and sells out the interests of the majority for individual upward mobility.
In his comprador role, Ramaphosa was until recently a director of a company called London Mine (Lonmin), whose arrogance and refusal to pay workers led to the deaths of 34 mineworkers, and to the most protracted protest labour action in the history of South Africa. Lonmin has not met, and actually disregarded, the prescriptions of the Mining Charter, and of course, the reason is Ramaphosa who is their security guard and can instruct politicians to stay far from the company which feeds him.
Lonmin is also alleged to be involved in the practice of transfer pricing, which is the most treacherous form of corporate crime in society.
What corporations involved in transfer pricing do is sell the commodities they produce to their subsidiary companies in countries called tax havens for lower prices in order to avoid taxes in the country they extract the commodities from.
In a report recently published by the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), it is stated that, “In sum, Lonmin, just for the years 2008 to 2012 transferred in commission fees $160 million (R1 231 billion) to a Lonmin subsidiary, Western Metals Sales Limited based in Bermuda, a well known tax haven. A further $155m (R1 170billion) was paid in management fees to Lonmin Management Services.”
These amounts were shifted from Lonmin’s South African operations and effectively put out of reach of possible wage demands, meetings of its social labour plan commitments and beyond what would have been “taxable income”.
It is necessary to ask if this is a case of the so-called “illicit financial flows” that have so worried African heads of state and prompted the Economic Commission for Africa and the AU to establish the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows.
Lonmin’s Bermuda connection is one piece in a complex inter-company labyrinth and picture of excessive dividend payments before the 2008 crash, exorbitant executive salaries as well as yearly management fees to head offices.
This is an important part of the background to the August 16 Marikana massacre and shaped Lonmin’s response to the wage demands of rock drill operators and other workers at its operations.
What this means is that the corporations Ramaphosa has been in service of have been treacherously avoiding tax, depriving South Africa of potential revenue to better services and denying workers adequate remuneration.
Workers had to resort to extreme forms of protest demanding R12 500 wages which Lonmin has been shifting to other parts of the world through a system that borders on criminality. Workers had to lose their lives, and families were deprived of breadwinners, because a few individuals are benefiting.
Now, this is the Ramaphosa whom all of us are expected to respect on the basis of his age. It will be very difficult for some of us to respect old people who are bartering our country down, aggressively extracting our mineral resources and calling for concomitant actions against workers.
Of course, the gesture expressed towards Ramaphosa was wrong and done in a wrong platform, but it is high time that someone told Ramaphosa that his personal greed and collaborationist practices are not appreciated.
When the EFF takes over political power, we will condemn such individuals to insignificance because society cannot be guided by lies forever.
As we said before, the only great thing Ramaphosa did correctly was to help fire some of us from the ANC so that we could expose its weaknesses and educate society that the party is not the liberator it claims to be. We will never surrender, no retreat until victory!
* Floyd Shivambu is EFF Chief Whip.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.