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(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed a High Court ruling in a damages lawsuit that was brought against him by the families of 34 deceased mineworkers even as the judge allowed the plaintiffs to pursue some of their claims.
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The matter dates back to 2012 when a prolonged pay dispute at the Marikana mine owned by Lonmin Plc in South Africa’s North West province saw the police open fire on strikers, resulting in the worst loss of life involving the security forces in the post-apartheid era. Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. has since taken over Lonmin.
The claims filed by 329 plaintiffs, including a demand for more than 1.1 billion rand ($67 million) in compensation as well as “exemplary” damages from Ramaphosa, Sibanye Stillwater and the government, were largely dismissed by Judge Frits van Oosten in a June 30 ruling. He did however, allow them to apply to test the allegation in court that communication between Ramaphosa, then a Lonmin director, company officials and government ministers may have contributed to the massacre.
“Whether the plaintiffs will at the trial be able to prove these allegations is not relevant for present purposes,” Van Oosten said. It is “my finding that the plaintiffs have satisfied the test of legal causation,” he said.
Ongoing legal action will add to pressure on Ramaphosa, who is also yet to explain why the theft of foreign currency from his game farm in 2020 wasn’t reported to the police. The crime was revealed last month by the nation’s former spy chief, who laid charges against the president.
Ahead of the Marikana shooting, Ramaphosa spoke to the then-mines minister in a bid to get her to take stronger action after several workers and security officers were killed in fighting between rival labor unions, which suggested the strike was “not a labor dispute but a criminal act,” according to emails submitted to the court. He also emailed a company official to say the acts “are plainly dastardly criminal and there needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”
The massacre prompted a lengthy inquiry by retired Judge Ian Farlam, who cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing.
There “is the ongoing politicization of this tragedy leading to the unfair targeting and isolated allocation of responsibility to the president,” the Presidency said in a statement on Monday. “Others have sought to create a false impression that President Ramaphosa bears liability for the killings.”
The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters said in a Monday statement that Ramaphosa “has a case to answer.”
Read: Lonmin Massacre Inquiry Clears Ramaphosa, Urges Police Probe
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