South Africa to withdraw murder charges against miners

 

South Africa's top prosecutor announced today that she is withdrawing controversial murder charges against 270 miners for the killings of 34 striking co-workers shot dead by police.

The National Union of Metal Workers meanwhile demanded the suspension of the officers responsible for the shootings. 

Today's announcement follows a barrage of criticism from political parties, trade unions, civil society and legal experts. 

Even the justice minister had challenged the prosecutor's decision to charge the arrested miners under an apartheid-era law that opened President Jacob Zuma's government to accusations that it was acting like the former brutal white rulers. 

Nomqcobo Jiba, the acting director of public prosecutions, did not say why she had reversed her decision to shift the blame from the police to the miners. 

"The murder charge against the current 270 suspects ... will be formally withdrawn," she told a news conference. 

She said the miners would be released from jail with a warning, providing police could verify their home addresses. 

She said other charges, ranging from public violence and illegal gathering to illegal possession of firearms, would remain, but the cases were being postponed pending final investigations and the findings of a judicial commission of inquiry, which is to report to the president by January. 

Most of the 270 miners were arrested Aug. 16 after police opened fire on striking miners, killing 34 and wounding 78. The shootings, the worst display of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994, shocked the nation. 

Police said they acted in self-defense after the miners shot at them. Most miners were armed with homemade clubs and machetes but police said they recovered several handguns from the scene. 

Ten people had been killed in a week of violence over union rivalries that preceded the shootings. Some of those killed were officials of the National Union of Mineworkers, two police officers were hacked to death and two mine security guards were burned alive in their vehicle. 

Another union, the National Union of Metal Workers, which includes some miners, called for the suspension of the police task force "that executed the Marikana massacre." 

The union's central committee "calls on the commission to find out and make public who, between the minister of police and the national police commissioner, gave orders to shoot workers with live bullets when they peacefully assembled on that fateful mountain," the union's secretary general Irvin Jim told a news conference Sunday. 

He said the police shootings confirm that South Africa has not transformed "the apartheid state and its violent machinery." Apartheid ended 18 years ago. 

Since then, South Africa has become the richest country on the continent, but the wealth has remained in the hands of minority whites joined by a small and often corrupt black elite. 

The killings, and the plight of miners who were demanding higher wages, has highlighted the failures of Zuma's government just as he prepares to run for re-election in December as president of the governing African National Congress, a position that would virtually guarantee him another term as president. 

Zuma's government is criticized for failing to address the concerns of South Africans suffering high unemployment, housing shortages and growing inequality between rich and poor. 

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions