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South Africa drops charges against miners over police shootings

Prosecutors have said, however, that the Marikana miners could be recharged after more investigations are carried out.

A mine worker sings and dances during a gathering at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg earlier this week.
A mine worker sings and dances during a gathering at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg earlier this week.
Image: Themba Hadebe/AP

SOUTH AFRICAN PROSECUTORS have dropped charges against 270 miners who had been accused of prompting the massacre of 34 of their colleagues at the Marikana platinum mine.

Domestic political parties and international observers had lashed out against the charges, brought under an apartheid-era law providing for the doctrine of “common purpose” – which provided that members of a mob could be charged as accomplices in the deaths of their colleagues.

Police had argued that they acted in self-defence when they opened fire on the group of miners during a demonstration connected to an illegal strike last month.

Prosecutors warned, however, that the withdrawal of the charges was only provisional – and that the charges could be reapplied after more thorough police investigations.

“Final charges will only be made once all investigations have been completed,” the New York Times quoted prosecutor Nomgcobo Jiba as saying.

“The murder charges against the current 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court.”

The prosecutors’ U-turn will be welcomed by president Jacob Zuma: Reuters notes that the president will be seeking re-election in December, but has seen his support erode over the state’s handling of the event.

Talks aimed at resolving the industrial dispute which prompted the illegal strike are to resume tomorrow, after the deceased miners were buried over the weekend.

The killing of the protesting miners at the Marikana mine was the worst security incident since the end of the apartheid era in 1994.

Read: South African police claim self-defence after 34 shot dead during mining protest

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Gavan Reilly

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