Radebe: NPA must explain Marikana murder charges

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has ordered the NPA to explain why it has decided to charge the jailed Marikana miners with murder. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has ordered the NPA to explain why it has decided to charge the jailed Marikana miners with murder. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

"I have requested the acting national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, to furnish me with a report explaining the rationale behind such a decision," Radebe said.

"Section 179 (6) of the Constitution reads: 'The Cabinet minister responsible for the administration of justice must exercise final responsibility over the prosecuting authority'."

On August 16, 34 striking miners were shot dead in a confrontation with police who were trying to disperse them at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Another 78 were injured.

Initially, the arrested group was charged with public violence. On Thursday, the NPA announced they would also face murder and attempted murder charges for the deaths of their colleagues.

Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema described the murder charges as madness.

"The policemen who killed those people are not in custody, not even one of them.
This is madness," he told protesters at the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court, outside Pretoria, on Thursday.

Radebe said in terms of the NPA Act the NDPP had to provide the justice minister with information or a report regarding the case, and give reasons for any decision taken.

"There is no doubt that the NPA's decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public.

"It is therefore incumbent upon me to seek clarity on the basis upon which such a decision is taken," Radebe said.

The Friends of the Youth League on Friday condemned the decision to charge the miners with murder.

"This decision is the most bizarre, hilarious, horrible, insensitive, disgusting, terrible, sick and totally unacceptable decision any sensitive government of the people can ever take. How on earth can the South African police, with the approval of its most senior leaders, kill workers and then turn to lay charges of murder on those who could not be killed, and survived death in the hands of the state," spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said in a statement.

He went further to accuse government's decision of showing "no regret" over the deaths.

"The mourning displayed by some of the ministers, the flying of the South African flag at half mast, the assurances given by Mr Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet are nothing by pure lies to mislead workers, and the people of South Africa that they care whilst they clearly not," the statement read.

The organisation also lambasted the Ga-Rankuwe Magistrate's Court's decision to postpone the bail hearing for the 270 miners to next week Thursday, as an abuse of power.

"In South African law, it is always envisaged that those who get arrested should appear for bail application within 48 hours, but the Lonmin mineworkers are now in police stations and prisons for more than 15 days and will be for more than 20 days before they appear for bail application."

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) weighed in on the debate, calling on South Africans to line up at police stations demanding to be charged with murder on Thursday next week when the miners next appear in court.

The DLF added the "common purpose" doctrine – under which the miners are being charged – rendered President Jacob Zuma's commission of inquiry void.

"Why waste money on a judicial commission when the state has already decided that the workers are responsible for having themselves shot at and their comrades killed by the police ... This opens the door to an official cover-up of the publicly witnessed shooting of the striking workers by the police," the DLF said.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) lambasted the murder charge, saying the NPA should have waiting for the outcome of the judicial inquiry.

"It is showing its contempt for the inquiry and potentially jeopardising its independence and relevance by pre-judging the arrested workers on the basis of their own version of the facts," the organisation said.

It went further to claims that the NPA's decision exposed the lack of proper training within the SAPS and the NPA. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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