Miners face murder rap

29 August 2012 - 02:09 By AMUKELANI CHAUKE
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In a bizarre twist, the National Prosecuting Authority has charged the 259 arrested Marikana miners with the murder of their 34 colleagues, shot dead by the police.

Frank Lesenyego, the NPA's regional spokesman, yesterday confirmed that the miners had been charged with murder and not public violence as previously stated.

Asked to clarify the confusion - after police commissioner Riah Phiyega had earlier confirmed that the miners died after police shot at them with live ammunition - Lesenyego said: "It's technical but, in legal [terms], when people attack or confront [the police] and a shooting takes place which results in fatalities ... suspects arrested, irrespective of whether they shot police members or the police shot them, are charged with murder."

On August 16, police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana mine in North West.

On the same day, the 259 workers were arrested for public violence. Another 78 were admitted to hospital.

The 259 miners appeared in Garankuwa Magistrate's Court last week. The hearing was postponed to Monday to allow for further investigations.

The group returned to court on Monday and yesterday the hearing was postponed again because of a power failure. It has now also emerged that the police are investigating all cases of murder since August 12 when the illegal strike started.

The strike has led to a total of 44 deaths at the mine, including those of two policemen and two security guards.

On Monday, Brigadier Gideon van Zyl, head of detectives in North West, told the court that because of several disruptions to the investigation - including the memorial service that was held for the slain miners last week - the police were unable to finalise the verification of the miners' residential addresses.

Prosecutor Nigel Carpenter said it was crucial that all addresses be verified before the miners are released because not doing so could lead to miners walking free as the police would not know their whereabouts.

Carpenter also argued that, because "weapons were stolen but not recovered" during the strike, evidence could be lost.

Police are also investigating the murders of the 10 people killed before the massacre but Van Zyl said the 259 miners were not being charged with those murders.

Today, the lawyers defending the miners, led by advocates Lesego Mmusi and Dali Mpofu, are expected to oppose any further postponements, and to ask the court to revoke the murder charges against the miners.

Following reports of intimidation at the mine since the weekend, Lonmin has reported that only 8% of its workforce had reported for duty yesterday.

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