President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to the debate on the State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly on February 20 2018 Picture: ELMOND JIYANE
President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to the debate on the State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly on February 20 2018 Picture: ELMOND JIYANE

President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to compensate the families of 44 miners who died during clashes with police in Marikana in 2012.

Taking to the podium on Tuesday during his reply to the state of the nation address (sona) debate a day earlier‚ Ramaphosa told members of the National Assembly that the government needed to take responsibility for its sins.

"We must be prepared‚ as government‚ that where we have failed our people‚ where we have made mistakes‚ we take steps to correct those mistakes. One was the Marikana tragedy, which stands out as the darkest moment in the life our young democracy. Members will recall that the commission of inquiry headed by retired Judge [Ian] Farlam investigated the direct and root causes of the tragedy‚" said Ramaphosa to a round of applause.

Judge Farlam‚ a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal‚ was appointed as the chairperson of the commission on August 23 2012‚ by former president Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa‚ who was addressing MPs for the second time following his election as the new head of state‚ said three broad areas were identified for action by the Farlam Commission: compensation for the injured and families; examining the procedures of public order policing; and preparing valid cases for prosecution if there are applicable laws.

What did Cyril Ramaphosa say in his reply to the Sona debate?

President Cyril Ramaphosa replied on February 20 2018 to the questions asked during the Sona debate. Here are the highlights.

"The incidents also brought into sharp focus the distress felt by people in mining communities. As we engage with mining communities and unions on the finalisation of the Mining Charter‚ we need to ensure these measures receive priority measures.

"I would like to use this opportunity to address what role I played in my capacity as a Lonmin director in the events of the tragic week. Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam Commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded‚ I am determined to play whatever role I can in the process of healing and atonement for what happened at Marikana‚" he said.

E-mails between Ramaphosa and mining company executives showed he had asked then police minister‚ Nathi Mthethwa‚ and minerals and resources minister‚ Susan Shabangu‚ to urgently intervene to address the situation at Lonmin.

Ramaphosa said that as a former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)‚ he would never call for the killing of mine workers‚ or anybody else. "I am guided by the needs and the wishes of the families of the 44 workers that lost their lives. Alongside Marikana‚ the Life Esidimeni tragedy stands out as an instance of the most appalling dereliction by the state of its duty to its people."

On the afternoon of August 16 2012‚ members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) killed 34 men at a Lonmin-owned platinum mine in the Marikana area in the North West province.

A large number of other men were also injured by SAPS gunfire on that afternoon. Between August 12 and 14, at least four miners‚ two police officers and two security guards died in the ensuing violence. At least 78 people were injured during the wildcat strike. Ramaphosa was non-executive director at Lonmin at the time.