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Police killed South African miners, co-workers charged

Thursday, August 30, 2012 | 12:26 PM    

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The BBC has reported that workers arrested at South Africa's Marikana mine have been charged with the murder of 34 of their colleagues, shot by police during a strike.

The 270 workers would be tried under the "common purpose" doctrine because they were in the crowd, which confronted police on 16 August, an official said.

Police opened fire, killing 34 miners and sparking a national outcry.

The decision to charge the workers was "madness", said former ruling African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema.

"The policemen who killed those people are not in custody, not even one of them. This is madness," said Malema, who was expelled from the ANC earlier this year following a series of disagreements with President Jacob Zuma.

"The whole world saw the policemen kill those people," Malema said, adding that he would ask defence lawyers to make an urgent application at the high court.

The killing of the 34 was the most deadly police action since South Africa became a democracy in 1994.

According to the article, the decision by the South African authorities to charge workers with the murder of 34 is politically controversial.

The prosecution is relying on the "common purpose" doctrine, once used by the former white minority regime against black activists fighting for democracy.

At the time, the ANC, the former liberation movement now in power, campaigned against the doctrine.

Now, its critics will accuse it of behaving just like the apartheid regime and turning victims into perpetrators.

The government has already been strongly criticised over the shooting, which has been dubbed the "Marikana massacre" and compared to the atrocities committed by the apartheid-era police.

The National Prosecuting Authority is officially an independent body but most South Africans believe it has close links to the ANC and this decision is likely to lead to more condemnation of President Jacob Zuma's government.

Six of the 270 workers remain in hospital, after being wounded in the shooting at the mine owned by Lonmin, the world's third biggest platinum producer.

The other 264 workers appeared in the Ga Rankuwa Magistrates court near the capital, Pretoria.

Their application for bail was rejected and the hearing was adjourned for seven days.

About 100 people protested outside the court, demanding the immediate release of the men.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Frank Lesenyego told the BBC the 270 workers would all face murder charges - including those who were unarmed or were at the back of the crowd.

"This is under common law, where people are charged with common purpose in a situation where there are suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities," he said.

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