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 will be formally withdrawn," she told a news conference.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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
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

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam