Decision to drop murder charges against mineworkers has mixed response

2012-09-03 07:07

Reactions from political parties were mixed following the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) decision to withdraw murder charges against 270 Lonmin mineworkers and release them.

“The Office of the ANC Chief Whip welcomes the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority to provisionally drop murder charges against the 270 Lonmin miners,” said spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

Mothapo said the charging of the miners raised eyebrows and it was for this reason the ANC welcomed Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s decision to request a report from the NPA regarding the authority’s legal strategy.

He commended President Jacob Zuma’s decision to not interfere in the matter and said the NPA was an independent institution.

“The NPA is an independent institution in terms of the Constitution and its decisions are governed by the legal framework within which it operates.

“Those who respect the rule of law will not advocate for anyone to dictate or influence the NPA’s prosecutorial decisions.”

The workers were initially charged with murder, attempted murder and public violence following the unrest that left 34 people dead and 78 others injured on August 16.

The NPA said the group would be issued with warnings concerning the murder charges on their next court appearance on September 6.

The other charges would remain.

The IFP said the NPA had blundered by charging the miners in the first place.

IFP chief whip Koos van der Merwe said: “They [NPA] firstly blundered by deciding to prosecute [the] miners knowing very well they face an almost impossible task of proving, amongst others, a common purpose.”

The Democratic Alliance said the decision to drop the charges had avoided further politicisation of the NPA.

Justice spokesperson Dene Smuts said a political ­free-for-all had broken out which could not serve the interests of justice or the NPA’s independence since the authority was already perceived to be unduly influenced by the ANC.

Smuts said Radebe had stayed within his powers in asking for the report but it was the DA’s position that the NPA be given greater independence either through the Constitution or the NPA Act.

“That independence must start with a change to the appointment provision, now in the hands of the President of the Republic,” he said.

“The [national director of public prosecution] should be selected by the National Assembly after an open process conducted by a multi-party committee.”

Smuts said it had become clear over nearly two decades of South Africa’s constitutional democracy the institutional and not just prosecutorial independence of the NPA be strengthened.

Van der Merwe believed the decision was a more serious blunder than charging the miners as it had further compromised the NPA’s integrity as an independent body.

“The second blunder was succumbing under pressure, as the NPA’s independence and integrity has been seriously damaged.”

He said this had serious implications for the judiciary.

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