South Africa: Miners Face Murder Charges

Photo: Daily Maverick/Greg Marinovich
Striking Lonmin miners gathered to have a meeting to discuss the deaths of some 34 of their colleagues.

Pretoria — Murder charges will be pressed against some mineworkers arrested for the bloody protests at Lonmin mine, the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

The first batch of 39 men were brought into a packed courtroom under heavy police guard. The 40th man from the first batch was in hospital.

The court heard that 260 mineworkers were arrested following violent protests at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West.

Police shot and killed 34 people while trying to disperse protesters.

Over 78 people were wounded. Ten people had already died in the week before the clash.

The prosecutor asked for a seven-day postponement, saying the ongoing investigations were wide and complex.

The investigation would allow the State to unravel what happened at the mine, and additional charges would be laid later. He said the probe would be complicated by the fact that some of the miners were immigrants. For someone to be released on bail, the State first had to verify their address.

The defence lawyer argued that the rights of the mineworkers had been infringed, as any arrested person was supposed to be brought to court within 48 hours.

The lawyer said where one slept after work could be regarded as home, so the mineworkers had verifiable addresses.

Court proceedings were interpreted in several languages, including Shangaan, Zulu, Tshwana and Shona (Zimbabwe's main language).

In the morning, a group of women protested at the court, demanding the release of their husbands, brothers, and fathers. Police instructed the protesters to leave the court building. They assembled in a street adjacent to the court, singing and dancing.

As police trucks transporting the mineworkers made their way into the court premises, escorted by police cars, the women started praying, some weeping hysterically. The men inside sang.

Police officers holding shields formed a barricade at the court entrance.

The first lot of the mineworkers, walking in single file, filled the left side of the courtroom benches, which had been reserved for them.

Some of them held hands. There were bloodstains on some of their clothes.

Former ANC Youth League spokesman Floyd Shivambu was in court, waiting for the matter to begin. He had been singing and dancing with the women outside the court.

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