Thursday, August 30, 2012

Murder charges stun and enrage South African miners


Murder Charges Dropped Against South African Miners
September 2, 2012

JOHANNESBURG – Prosecutors provisionally dropped murder charges against the 270 jailed miners who had been accused under an obscure legal doctrine of killing 34 of their own colleagues when the police opened fire on them while engaged in a wildcat strike.

The police fired live ammunition into a crowd of about 3,000 platinum miners armed with clubs and machetes while trying to disperse the illegal strike on Aug. 16. When the firing stopped, 34 miners were dead and South Africa was outraged by the bloodiest confrontation between police and civilians since the end of apartheid. The police have claimed they acted in self-defense.

The outrage grew when prosecutors announced last week that under a legal doctrine known as “common purpose,” the miners themselves would be charged with murdering their colleagues. Under the doctrine, which was frequently used in the waning days of apartheid to charge members of protesting crowds with serious crimes committed by a few individuals, people in a mob can be charged as accomplices.

In a hastily arranged news conference Sunday, officials from the National Prosecuting Authority said that they would await the outcome of further investigations into the shootings, but did not rule out bringing murder charges again...


Murder charges stun and enrage South African miners
LUANDA — The New York Times News Service
Aug. 30 2012

Two weeks after the police opened fire on a crowd of 3,000 workers engaged in a wildcat strike at a platinum mine near Johannesburg, killing 34 people in the bloodiest labour unrest since the end of apartheid, prosecutors are bringing murder charges against a surprising set of suspects: the miners themselves.

Using an obscure legal doctrine frequently relied upon by the apartheid government in its dying days, prosecutors did not accuse the police officers who shot and killed the strikers as they surged forward, machetes in hand. Instead, officials said Thursday that they were pursuing murder charges against the 270 miners who were arrested after the dust settled and the shooting stopped.

It was the latest astonishing turn in a saga that has gripped South Africa, unleashing a torrent of rage over deepening inequality, poverty and unemployment.

The shootings have fed a growing sense of betrayal at the country’s governing party, the venerable African National Congress, many of whose senior members have joined a wealthy elite a world away from the downtrodden masses whose votes brought them to office at the end of apartheid in 1994. Now the prosecutors’ decision to charge the miners in the killings threatened to intensify that rift.

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