Ramaphosa’s Rustenburg riddle: He backs out of NUM youth rally

ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa backed out of addressing the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members for the third time this month.

Ramaphosa cancelled his keynote address at a youth rally at the Olympia stadium in Rustenburg on Saturday. Former ANC chief whip in parliament Mathole Motshekga took his place.

The union said Ramaphosa had “other commitments” — officials refused to elaborate and Ramaphosa’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

The NUM’s spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu did not know why Ramaphosa cancelled.

The ANC deputy president’s return to the platinum mining town has been highly anticipated since his apology over his “inappropriate language” used in an email he sent to Lonmin platinum mining bosses the day before police shot down 34 mineworkers in Marikana.

He was a shareholder in the London-based mining company at the time of the shooting and apologised Rhodes University, where he also announced his intention to meet with the families and injured workers.

But the lawyers for the families of the deceased and injured workers said the apology was “pitiable”. It was also rejected by Amcu, the dominant mineworkers union on the platinum belt.

Speaking at the Tsietsi Mashinini memorial lecture in Soweto this month, Senior Council advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said that Ramaphosa made a “pitiable attempt” and that his apology was a “thinly veiled political manoeuvre”.

There have already been signs that Ramaphosa’s return to Rustenburg would be carefully managed — ANC MP and liberation struggle veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela this year said she would speak to him about helping the widows of the men who were killed.

The invite to speak at the youth rally follows an unsuccessful attempt by the NUM to get Ramaphosa back to Rustenburg to address a rally earlier this month. The former trade unionist founded the NUM in the 1980s and held the position of general secretary while leading the historic 1987 strike on the gold belt that led to mass dismissals.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe took Ramaphosa’s place at the podium to deliver opening address at the NUM’s central committee meeting at the beginning of June. The deputy president was again expected at a gala dinner the following day but backed out again.

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