Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologised for the manner in which the Marikana massacre unfolded, saying he was sorry for the type of language he used at the time.
Speaking at Rhodes University, Ramaphosa told students that he had intervened in the Lonmin mine strike in Marikana to prevent further deaths.
On the eve of the Marikana shooting, Ramaphosa allegedly said in an email discussion between Lonmin management and government officials that events around the strike "are plainly dastardly criminal acts and must be characterised as such".
Ramaphosa was responding in a question and answer session with students where one student asked him to address the Marikana massacre.
"You say you want to appeal to my conscience," Ramaphosa said. "My conscience is that I participated in trying to stop further deaths from happening."
He said at the time he stepped into the situation, ten workers had been killed and his intervention was to "say there is a disaster looming, more workers had been killed and are going to be killed".
Ramaphosa explained that at the time, some of the workers had been hacked to death and their eyes had been ripped out and their hearts torn out. This, he said, had horrified him.
"You might say that doesn't matter but it did horrify me as a person and I then said we need to prevent this from happening. Yes, I may well have used unfortunate language in the messages I sent out."
He then apologised for the messages adding that he had done so in the past.
"I have apologised and I do apologise that I did not use appropriate language but I never had the intention to have 34 other mine workers killed."'
He told attendees that having worked for nine years for mine workers, he would not be responsible for their deaths.
Ramaphosa said he served miners diligently, and got everything done to increase their wages as well as their living conditions, during his nine years as the general secretary at the National Union of Mineworkers.
"I put everything I had to advance the interest of mine workers. It could never be that I would then say 34 mine workers should be killed. I have apologised - this is where even as a leader, I'm willing and prepared to listen to advice and council of other leaders."
Ramaphosa said African National Congress stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had counselled him to address the matter and visit the area.
"Madikizela-Mandela has said to me: 'DP this matter needs to be addressed. I want to go with you to Marikana.' I have said, 'Mama, I will accept your counsel.'"
Madikizela-Mandela was pained by the incident, he said.
"And I also felt pained by what happened in Marikana. I am willing to do that. I am going to be led by Mama in this regard."