First Marikana miners freed

2012-09-03 18:37
(AP)

(AP)

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Ga-Rankuwa - The first of the 270 miners detained after police shot dead 34 of their colleagues during a wildcat strike at Lonmon's Marikana mine, were released on Monday.

The men were charged last week with murdering their fellow miners, but State prosecutors withdrew the charges at the weekend following a public outcry.

"The murder charges against the accused are at this point of time withdrawn," said Magistrate Esau Bodigelo as he released 47 miners in the court north of Pretoria.

"You may stand down," he added as applause broke out in the courtroom.

The freed workers sang and danced as they left the court, while 10 minibuses supplied by expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema's organisation, Friends of the Youth League, readied to take them back to Marikana where celebrations awaited.

"We don't feel we need that [state transport], they have been in Nyalas a while now," Sello Difeto, a local businessman said, referring to the armoured police vehicles.

The miners' lawyers put it on record that they wanted all charges to be dropped.

"All the charges are incompetent (sic) and should be withdrawn," Dali Mpofu said.

He said this would be addressed when the trial resumed on 12 February next year.

Witnesses

Bodigelo warned that the miners should not interfere with the investigation or any witnesses.

They should also not contravene the Public Violence Act, the Gatherings Act, the Dangerous Weapons Act, or the Firearms Control Act.

The men's wives greeted them as they made their way out.

"I'm very happy," Matidiso Poshodi said of her husband.

"I've been looking forward to this too much."

One of the workers, Bongani Maqakalana, 27, said: "I'm very happy. I get to see my child."

Monday's proceedings were delayed because the miners needed to be picked up from various prisons and brought to court. By 15:00, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Vuyisile Calaza said authorities had found 91 of the miners.

The NPA said on Sunday the physical addresses of these miners had been confirmed, and they could apply to be released on warnings.

"Those whose physical residential addresses have not been confirmed by the police will remain in custody until the next court appearance which is Thursday," the NPA said.

Last week, prosecutors said the men would be charged with the murder and attempted murder of 34 of their colleagues on 16 August.

Following a public outcry the charges were provisionally withdrawn on Sunday.

The murder charges had been brought by the director of public prosecutions in the North West, Johan Smit SC. He told reporters he had evidence that armed workers went to the hilltop in Marikana to attack the police.

"It was desirable for me to put the charges in," he said.


Read more on:    lonmin  |  mahikeng  |  mining unrest

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