Monday, September 3, 2012

Freedom for South Africa's striking miners

Several of the 34 Marikana miners were buried over the weekend in the Eastern Cape and in Lesotho/Photo©Reuters

By Crystal van Wyk

After coming under fire for the arrest of 270 striking miners, charged with murder, South African courts are getting ready to free the workers this week.
A hastily convened press conference in Pretoria on Sunday, saw the prosecuting authority provisionally withdrawing widely criticised murder charges that had been levelled against the striking miners.
In a move that shocked the nation, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) charged the Lonmin mine workers with murder of 34 of their colleagues. This was despite images that showed the police opening fire on the miners.
NPA's Nomgcobo Jiba said: "the murder charge against the current 270 suspects... will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance."

"The miners and protestors will be released conditionally depending the finalisation of the investigation," he said. "This would be done in phases, those who have addressed and police have verified this will be released."
Jiba said other workers would remain in custody until their residential addresses could be confirmed.
The workers were arrested for public violence on August 16 after 34 of their colleagues were shot dead by police at Lonmin's Marikana mine. Another 78 were injured.

Last week, prosecutors announced that the miners would face murder and attempted murder charges based on the basis of the common law doctrine of common purpose where "suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities."

This doctrine was last used was by apartheid era police and law enforcers.
On Friday, lawyers for the men asked President Jacob Zuma to withdraw the charges. On Sunday, Zuma's office welcomed the NPA's decision.
The ANC and the Justice department also welcomed the decision to provisionally withdraw the charges.
The ruling party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the move would allow the Commission of Enquiry established by Zuma to do its work and for police to continue with their investigations.
Jiba said the decision to institute murder charges was based on "sound legal principle" which had been part of the legal system for decades.

Meanwhile, several of the 34 Marikana miners were buried over the weekend in the Eastern Cape and in Lesotho.

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