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WATCH | 'I've never been a spy': Ramaphosa responds to sellout accusation

14 February 2019 - 15:46 By THABO MOKONE

"I can testify. I've never been a spy, I have never worked with the enemy, all I've ever done in my life is my commitment to the people of our country."

This was the categorical denial by President Cyril Ramaphosa before a joint sitting of parliament on Thursday after COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota on Wednesday dropped a shocking allegation that Ramaphosa had sold comrades out to the apartheid security branch in 1974 when they were student activists taking part in a Frelimo rally.

Kicking off his response to the debate on the state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said he had been advised to ignore Lekota's "vitriol" - but he chose to act against that advice to deal with the COPE leader's claims.

"I was waiting for pearls of wisdom from our MPs, but instead of engaging seriously with matters of national importance raised in the Sona, several speakers used this platform for personal attacks, for vitriol and pontification," said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa went on to detail how he and other students leaders had been arrested for marching at the Mankweng police station in the former Lebowa area (which is now the Limpopo province) before he was transferred to Pretoria, where he was detained for six months.

"They started interrogating me, which was vicious, and I will not go into that. The issue that they wanted from me was to give evidence against accused number one, Saths Cooper, Muntu Myeza, accused number two, Terror Lekota, accused number 3, and a number of others. I refused," he said.

Ramaphosa said he also refused to sell out his comrades, even after the security branch tried to get his father, who was a police officer at the time, to get him to agree to turn state witness against his fellow activists.

"I said, 'Dad, I'm not going to do it. I will never betray the comrades that I was working with, and if I did, where will I go and live thereafter?' I refused."

Ramaphosa then turned to EFF leader Julius Malema, who on Tuesday suggested that the president had sold out workers because he oversaw the establishment of the National Union of Mineworkers at the behest of the mining giant Anglo American.

"That story started being spread by some within our own ranks who at the time had been tasked with organising mineworkers, but because their approach had not worked, they then started spreading a story as they saw the NUM growing," he said.

Ramaphosa said that back then workers were suspicious of their intention as they did not have permission from their employers, but that all changed after they secured approval to organise workers from the Chamber of Mines.

"We got access and we started organising mineworkers. At the time, Anglo American and Rand Mines were the only two miners that had allowed workers to join a union.

"Why would Anglo American act against its own interests, because it was Anglo American which was most severely impacted by the strikes that mineworkers embarked upon?

"Now, honourable Lekota and honourable Malema, you raise these issues and throw around innuendo. You must realise how dangerous this is," said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa reminded Malema that he defended him when there were claims doing the rounds that the EFF was a project of MI6, a foreign intelligence service of the UK government.

The president said he would not be setting up a commission of inquiry to probe the "sellout" claims against him, which was proposed by the EFF.

"I have no interest as the president of this country to appoint judicial commissions which are going waste taxpayers' money for nothing. That I will not do," he said.