Not at all. Not at all' - Ramaphosa gets standing ovation as he responds to sellout claims
President Cyril Ramaphosa received a standing ovation from the ANC as he insisted that he was never was a spy and never sold his comrades out.
Ramaphosa was responding to claims which Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota made on Wednesday during his speech in the debate on Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday.
Lekota claimed that when he was incarcerated with Ramaphosa and others in 1974, Ramaphosa was "rewarded" by apartheid's special branch after he wrote to them and said Lekota and the others put communist ideas in his head.
"In doing so, you condemned us, to the special branch," Lekota told a stony-faced Ramaphosa.
"I say this to you because the special branch rewarded you as they always reward their victims and they sent you home and we headed to Robben Island."
At the start of his speech, in commemoration of Valentine's Day, Ramaphosa promised roses for his wife and all female MPs and parliamentary officials, but warned DA chief whip John Steenhuisen not to expect any roses or candles from him. He also thanked everyone who participated in the debate.
"In many ways, this debate was a demonstration that although we may differ on many issues, and often differ very loudly, we share a common desire for a better South Africa," Ramaphosa said.
He said he expected to hear pearls of wisdom from the opposition, but none were forthcoming. Instead, the platform was used for "personal attacks, for vitriol and pontification".
The president said he had been advised that he "should not even dignify some of the comments that were made with any form of response, in particular to what Honourable Lekota had to say".
"But against that advice, I have decided let me rather set the record straight."
He said Lekota was correct in saying that they were detained in the same trail event in 1974.
Ramaphosa was 21 years old at the time and a student at the University of the North.
They became involved in organising pro-Frelimo rallies, and the government decided to "conduct a swoop on all of us".
"Now, my arrest was quite dramatic," Ramaphosa said, calmly. He said their SRC president was arrested and they marched to the police station.
While some of the SRC members were inside the police station, the police called for Ramaphosa. Once inside, they told the others they could now go, as Ramaphosa was arrested.
He was then taken to Pretoria Central police station and kept in solitary confinement for six months before anybody came to talk to him.
He said his father was a police sergeant at the time and through his efforts, he eventually got to see him.
"And later, they started to interrogate me, which was quite vicious. I will not go into that," Ramaphosa continued, as the whole House listened in silence.
He said what they wanted from him was to give evidence against a group of accused, which included Lekota.
"And I refused. And they thought they would use my dad to put pressure on me to agree to become a State witness. I refused. I said I will not do it. Then I was taken, I was taken to Silverton police station."
He said his neighbour in Silverton was another detainee, whose name he did not want to disclose, who later informed him that he turned State witness.
"And then I realised why I had been taken to Silverton. My dad came to visit me and he said they want you to be a State witness. And I said: 'Dad, I'm not going to do it. I will never betray the comrades I have been working with. And if I did, where will I go and live thereafter?' I refused,'" he said to applause from ANC MPs.
While Ramaphosa spoke, Lekota looked down and he had a grim expression on his face.
"Now, having refused, my neighbour then went and gave evidence. He gave evidence against Terror Lekota and all of them. As I persisted in my refusal to give evidence, they let me go, but they brought me back. They said: 'We still want you to give evidence.' And I persisted in refusing. He gave evidence, the trial went on and they were sentenced," Ramaphosa said.
"And then I was released. Now, you know, when you deal with police, with security police, there are three things that they want from you. It's either you co-operate with them, you give evidence against your comrades, or you become an askari and go and kill your comrades, or you become a paid agent.
"I did not do any of the three things that they wanted," Ramaphosa said, to applause from the ANC. "Not at all. Not at all."
He said when he was released, a Major Heystek said they wanted him to work with them.
"And I said I will never agree to work with you and betray my people. And they said: 'We will come back to you.' "
Ramaphosa said on the very same day, the 1976 Soweto uprising began. He was again arrested and taken to John Vorster Square where he spent another six months. He said they threatened him with a five-to-10-year jail sentence, but he persisted to refuse to give evidence.
"And they said: 'You are going to be like Nelson Mandela. You are going to break rocks on Robben Island.' I said, in the end, I would rather go and break rocks and I will never, ever betray my people," he said, making a chopping gesture with his right hand.
He was eventually released without any charge brought against him. He said his journey then led him to organise mineworkers and the formation of the National Union of Mineworkers.
The president said he wanted to explain to EFF leader Julius Malema the formation of the NUM, as it has been raised in the past that the NUM was an Anglo-American project. He denied this.
"Why would Anglo act against its own interest?"
"Honourable Lekota and Honourable Malema, you throw around allegations and innuendos, you must realise how dangerous it is."
Ramaphosa then said when Malema visited London a few years ago, there were rumours that the EFF was an MI6 project, but he never believed it or took the matter up, because he believed in Malema's character.
Malema and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, laughed.
He then quoted Oliver Tambo: "Beware the wedge driver. Watch his poisonous snake."
"I can testify I have never ever been a spy. I've never worked with the enemy. All I've ever done in my life is my commitment to the people of my country. That's all," Ramaphosa said, with a smile, as the ANC caucus stood up to applaud him.
After Lekota's speech on Wednesday, the EFF wrote to speaker Baleka Mbete to ask that a judicial commission of inquiry be appointed to investigate the claims.
As Ramaphosa prepared to get into his real speech – the part addressing the allegations isn't part of the speech later distributed to the media – EFF members blurted out about the commission.
"Now, let me deal with that," Ramaphosa interrupted himself.
"I have no interest as president of this country to appoint judicial commissions which are going to waste taxpayers' money for nothing. That I will not do."
There was some noise from the EFF benches, but they did not pursue the matter further.