Pretoria — The National Prosecuting Authority has, following intense deliberations by the leadership of the NPA and after consulting with the leadership of the police, decided to withdraw the murder charge against the 270 Lonmin miners arrested in Marikana, pending the conclusion of investigations.
"The murder charge against the current 270 suspects, which was provisional anyway, will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance. Other provisional charges will remain," announced Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, acting National Director of Public Prosecutions at a press briefing in Pretoria this afternoon.
She said the decision and pronouncement on final charges to be preferred against the persons involved would only be made once all investigations into the matter had been completed.
Jiba also announced that the protestors would be released conditionally on warning and their case postponed pending the finalisation of investigations, including the investigations by the Commission of Enquiry set up by President Jacob Zuma.
The release of the miners will be done in phases. "Those whose physical residential addresses that the police have been able to verify will be requisitioned for court tomorrow and an application made for their release from custody."
The NPA said that by Saturday night the police had been able to verify 140 of the miner's addresses.
"Those whose physical residential addresses have not been confirmed by the police will remain in custody until the next court appearance on Thursday," said Jiba.
She said police would work around the clock to verify the outstanding addresses to ensure all of those arrested were released and requested that they cooperate with the police and furnish them with the correct addresses.
Jiba emphasised that the decision to institute murder charges against the miners had been "based on a sound legal principle which has not only been part of our legal system for decades, but continues to remain relevant and applicable in our democratic dispensation".
"The NPA has applied the principle in many cases before. Its application to this specific case would therefore not be unique," said Jiba, who cited various cases were this law had been applied.
Jiba also highlighted that the final decision on the charged that the suspects will face will only be made when investigations have been finalised and factors taken into account and a formal indictment with final charges has been served on the accused before the commencement of trial.
"At this stage the investigations in this matter are far from being completed," she added.
She explained that the NPA had during its deliberations take into account that the President had announced a judicial commission of inquiry into the incident and that the NDPP had received and considered the scope of the work of the commission; that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) was also conducting investigations relating to the conduct of the police on the day of the incident; that the police were also continuing with their investigations against the suspects with regard to their conduct and that the scope of the commission was broad and involved the conduct of both protestors and the police who must be afforded an opportunity to present them and participate in the commission.
Jiba said it was important to get evidence from all parties to assist the NPA on what the final charges to be brought before the court should be.
Director of Public Prosecutions in the North West, Advocate Johan Smith, noted that seven suspects would be appearing for the killing of two police officers and another one suspect would be appearing in court for the murder of a security guard. These cases, he said, were separate from the 270 miners.