270 striking mine workers are being charged with murder after police shot dead 34 of their colleagues.
They are being tried under South Africa’s “common purpose” legislation because they were all in the crowd that confronted police two weeks ago at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.
Families of the accused protested at the proceedings as they were led away in prison vans.
An official said police are not being charged because there will be a separate inquiry into their actions.
The strike at the world’s third biggest platinum producer was triggered by demands for a pay rise and recognition of a new trade union.
Police say they started shooting after being threatened by groups of miners armed with sticks and machetes.
It was the most deadly police response since the end of apartheid.
Ten people including two police officers and two security guards had been killed before the shootings.
Six of the 270 accused workers remain in hospital after being wounded in the incident.
The common purpose legislation was used by the former white minority regime to convict activists fighting against apartheid.
NPA asked to explain miners murder charges
Friday 31 August 2012 12:02
Striking miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine are demanding their salaries to be increased to R12 500. (REUTERS)
Radebe says he has asked acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba to furnish him with a report explaining the rationale behind the decision. In a statement, Radebe says the decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion among members of the community and the general public.
On August 16, 34 striking miners were shot dead in a confrontation with police at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Initially, the arrested group was charged with public violence.
Yesterday, the NPA announced they would also face murder charges for the deaths of their colleagues. The decision has caused outrage among legal experts worldwide.
The common doctrine law was used a lot during the last ten years of Apartheid
Earlier, Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said the NPA’s decision to charge the miners on the common purpose doctrine, is bizarre and an abuse of the justice system. He says the decision is an Apartheid-era law.
“The common doctrine law was used a lot during the last ten years of Apartheid in cases where there was as a crowd of people and one person in the crowd committed a crime. The whole group would then be associated with that one person who committed the crime and all would be prosecuted and convicted for common purposes – two of the most famous cases was the Sharpeville Six and the Upington 26 who were all convicted of murder because one among them had actually killed somebody else.”
Meanwhile, discussions among Lonmin, unions and government to end the strike have been suspended until Monday due to funerals being held this weekend for those killed.