South African Marikana miners charged with murder

Police keep watch during the arrival of some of the  mine workers, at a Garankuwa court outside Pretoria (20 August 2012) Six of the 270 arrested miners remain in hospital

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Workers arrested at South Africa's Marikana mine have been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police.

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 ANC party youth leader Julius Malema.

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

"The whole world saw the policemen kill those people," Mr 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.


The decision by the South African authorities to charge 270 workers with the murder of 34 of their colleagues who were shot dead by police 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 African National Congress (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, in South Africa's North West province.

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.

'Flagrant abuse'

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.

South African lawyer Jay Surju told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the "common purpose" doctrine was used by the former white minority regime against activists fighting for racial equality in South Africa.

"This is a very outdated and infamous doctrine," he said.

"It was discredited during the time of apartheid."

The decision has also been condemned as "a flagrant abuse of of the criminal justice system" by constitutional lawyer Pierre de Vos.

The best known case was that of the "Upington 14", who were sentenced to death in 1989 for the murder of a policeman in 1985.

The trial judge convicted the 14 activists, even though he acknowledged that they did not carry out the killing.

Striking Lonmin mine workers form a group to sing and dance after listening to a report about the state of their wage negotiations on August 29, 2012 in Marikana. The strike has halted production at the mine for three weeks

Anti-apartheid activists around the world protested against the ruling, which was overturned on appeal.

During a visit to the mine after the Marikana killings, President Zuma told workers he "felt their pain" and promised that a commission of inquiry would investigate the killings.

Mr Lesenyego said the commission would rule on the conduct of the police.

"It's a separate case," he said.

The commission and an internal police review are expected to take several months to complete.

Police said they started shooting after being threatened by large groups of miners armed with machetes.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed during the protests before the police shooting.

The protests were triggered by demands for a huge pay rise and recognition of a new union.

Talks are continuing to resolve the dispute, which has shut the mine for the past three weeks.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Dear President Zuma
    While you're there, why not dig up some Jews and charge them with genocide?
    The Civilised Nations

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    465. grc
    Why is it the Coppers only tend to socialize with other coppers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    yes but i don't think that you can generalise Mr de Menezes (or Mr Duggan) that UK police on a day to day basis very readily resort to firearms - I know people who were in situations where they could have shot (robbery of a Richmond jewellers where the male turned to face armed police holding a shotgun - which a few seconds later he put down!) But the common purpose thing is utterly daft

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    454. grc
    I had to deal with the police a lot over the years due to my job, there is differently a ''type''.
    well I have worked with many of them and you can't stereotype 150,000 people - straight, gay, left, right centre, horrible gits and some (like the off duty officer who helped the lady at 7/7 who is now at the Paralympics) great people with most somehwere in the middle like any job

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    This is twisted. The "stop hitting yourseslf" prosecution has no place in a national court of law, and the parties involved should be ashamed of themselves for so desperately trying to displace the blame on anyone else. You disgust me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    460. grc
    Look at countries like Jamaica too where the police shoot first and ask questions later.
    Or the good ole' U.S of A or London.

    jean charles de menezes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    A miner claims a wage is low and is forced to strike. This results in loss of life and the miner remains at fault ?! This makes no sense! And what an unnecessary stress on the workers and community!

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Perhaps future generations will view President Zuma in the same light as current generations view President Balthazar Johannes Vorster. Both using Apartheid laws to help themselves against the workers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    I do wonder how many of those posting here have ever lived in Africa. The policing of the protest was inept and incompetent (didn't seem that any of the police had riot gear) but policing in Africa in general is not like policing Hampstead just that its a hot climate and you're wearing khaki instead of blue! Look at countries like Jamaica too where the police shoot first and ask questions later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Stheouth Africa never changed.... the Afrikaner(lmao) still thinks he has a right to south africa, which is so funny to me. That a whiteman can really claim he is African. These miners are just poor people, whose only crime was to fight for their right for a fair pay for a dangerous job. Now, the police on the other hand fired indiscriminately at the protesters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    The idea of being able to charge protesters for the unlawful actions of their own officers must be a very attractive proposition for the Met Police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    This is worthy of North Korea.
    Frankly, what this shows is that the ANC elite currently riding the South African rainbow gravy train for all they`re worth, on the backs of their own people, are living in a bubble and have not even begun to realise how dangerous their current situation is. The same is true for their Anglo African masters (Yes, Lonmin = LONDON MINING). He who sows the wind reaps...

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    454. grc
    I had to deal with the police a lot over the years due to my job, there is differently a ''type''.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Its also interesting to see that the usual suspects trot out the "and I tell you comrades it'll happen here too soon" type stuff (indulging their Citizen Smith fantasies!). And you have to love the person who said it was white policemen shooting down black miners - the only white officer I could see in the clip was the one shouting "cease fire" whilst people blatted bursts of R4 fire past his head

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    The Police ..own twisted desire to bully people and act as an authority. This is the general mentality of every single person who joins a police force nowadays
    Whilst I'd agree that this is crazy decision its reassuring to see that the ACAB brigade are out in strength - every single person who joins the police is a bully? Not even most? Have you met every police officer in the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    Al Jazeera reported "SA newspaper, The Sowetan reported on Thursday that police officers had earlier said that negotiation with leaders of the rival union AMCU had broken down, leaving no option but to disperse them by force. "Today is unfortunately D-day" police spokesman Dennis Adriao was quoted as saying."

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    This is an extreme example of the consequences of nation statism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Two quotes come to mind from O level studies: "they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.." and: "the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    My, my, my, where is the world justice going? Those who killed are innocent and those people shot at are guilty! Who is the wise guy?! What a scapegoat precedent!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    The government/police corruption is just a bad in the UK as it is in South Africa. They cover up for each other and they are above the law. This is why people do not support the police. We can't trust them to be honest or to do their job properly.


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