Murder charges against Marikana miners withdrawn

The charges against the 270 miners will be dropped pending further investigations. (Gallo)

The charges against the 270 miners will be dropped pending further investigations. (Gallo)

"We have decided to withdraw charges against the incarcerated miners and will release them from prison until the further investigations are undertaken," Acting NPA head Nomgcobo Jiba told reporters in Pretoria on Sunday.

Jiba explained the decision was made after "intense deliberations" and was not final.

"The NPA wants to wait for judicial inquiry, but won't necessarily do so if a prima facie case in front of it," she said.

Jiba said some miners would be released at their next court case, which was due on Monday, while the rest would be released on September 12 once their addresses were confirmed.

Murder was added to the charge sheet against the miners last week after originally being charged with public violence, illegal gathering and attempted murder.

A deadly shootout with police occured on August 16 at Lonmin's Marikana mine in the North West during a protest over wage agreements. Thirty-four people were killed and 78 were wounded. 

Another 10 people were killed in what was thought to be union violence a week before the incident. Two security guards were also killed during the protests.

'Common purpose'
The miners were charged under the "common purpose" doctrine, which was frequently used by the apartheid state to implicate an entire group of people in crimes by a few individuals – in spite of those being charged on the periphery often being innocent.

The director of Public Prosecutions in the North West, Johan Smit, explained on Sunday the case of the other 10 miners who were killed a week before the shootout would be handled separately, as it occured at a different time and at a different place.
He added the NPA had seven suspects for those killings.

He also said one suspect was being questioned for the killing of the two security guards.

The move comes as lawyers representing the miners were preparing an urgent court application to be brought against President Jacob Zuma, demanding their immediate release in the North Gauteng High Court on Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said via a statement the president could not "accede to the demand" and that he would wait for the Farlam commission of inquiry's recommendations before undertaking any action.

Deshnee Subramany

Deshnee Subramany

Deshnee Subramany is our loudest employee. After slogging through various positions in marketing, advertising, radio – and a cow suit – Deshnee finally found her way to the M&G as a content producer in 2010, and was then forced to grow up by filling the position of day editor of the website. Sometimes she puts on her radio voice and guest-hosts the M&G Newsroom.If she was a superhero she would be called the Feeding Frenzy. Her passion is South African politics and revolutions. This comrade loves setting her world alight by discovering new ideas and people, and isn't afraid to laugh the loudest.
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  • Nickolaus Bauer

    Nickolaus Bauer

    Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.
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