Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota will have to produce evidence to back up his allegation that President Cyril Ramaphosa sold out to escape imprisonment in the 1970s, according to Professor Seth Cooper.
Cooper, a pan-African union member who was one of the people sentenced to Robben Island alongside the now Cope leader in 1974, said people abused the privilege of being able to say almost anything in parliament to make allegations, forgetting they needed to provide proof to those claims.
“I think it would be appropriate for him (Lekota) to state these [allegations] outside the confines of parliament and deduce evidence to that effect. It’s one thing to allege anything. All sorts of things get alleged, particularly in this era of social media. To prove them, to provide evidence for them is another matter altogether.”
In parliament, normal laws of defamation do not apply.
He said Lekota owed it to himself, parliament, and the nation to provide evidence for his claims.
Cooper told Power FM that Lekota’s claim of a letter sent to the Special Branch was news to him.
“I have not heard this before. I do know that President Ramaphosa was a student [of] Turfloop at the time. There were a few hundred students and other activists arrested in the period between September 1974 and about November that year. Very few people ended up being state witnesses and, definitely, Cyril Ramaphosa was not one of them.
“Many of us who were in detention were tortured, beaten up, and made to sign statements, and sometimes repudiate those statements, rewrite them etcetera. During detention, one would tend to say whatever the interrogators wanted us to say, but definitely, this kind of writing to the security police, and alleging that others were the ringleaders or communists, is news to me.”
There were fourteen arrested, nine convicted, and sent to Robben Island in 1974 and Cooper, who was the first accused, said he was unaware of any letter sent to the Special Branch.
Lekota, during day two of the state of the nation debate, told members of parliament that Ramaphosa wrote to the apartheid Special Branch in the 1970s, claiming his fellow struggle comrades put communist ideas in his head. This was in a bid to avoid imprisonment on Robben Island according to Lekota.
Ramaphosa on Thursday responded to Lekota’s claims and told the public gallery that he was never a spy. “I will never become a state witness and I will never betray my comrades.”
He said the debate was meant as an opportunity to discuss the Sona issues, and that despite this, several speakers used the platform for personal attacks, vitriol, and identification.
During a march against the Mankweng police station, Ramaphosa, a student leader, was arrested and taken to Pretoria Central Police Station.
“My arrest was quite dramatic. Sedibe was arrested and we marched [to] the Mankweng police station. I was arrested and transported to Pretoria Central Prison where I was in solitary confinement for a solid six months.
“The issue they wanted from me was to give evidence against a number of others. And I refused. And they thought they [could] use my dad to put pressure to me, to turn [me] into a state witness. I refused and said I will not do it.”
According to Ramaphosa, he was then taken to Silverton Police Station where pressure was put on his father, who was a policeman, to convince his son to give evidence. Ramaphosa said he still refused. He was released around 1976.