Murder charges ‘absurd’

2012-09-01 00:00

“ABSURD”, “mad”, “bizarre, “a hidden agenda” and “abuse of the law” were some of the reactions yesterday to the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to charge 270 Marikana miners with the murders of 34 of their colleagues who were shot by police officers.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe asked the NPA to report immediately on why it had taken the decision.

“There is no doubt that the NPA’s decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public.

“It is therefore incumbent upon me to seek clarity on the basis upon which such a decision is taken,” Radebe said.

The 34 miners were shot dead by the police during a protest at the Lonmin-owned mine on August 16.

The NPA used the principle of “common purpose” to justify the charges, which astonished legal scholars.

Professors Pierre de Vos, Marinus Wiechers and Tom Coetzee were among those who commented.

Constitutional expert De Vos called it an abuse of the law.

He said the NPA Act required every member of the authority to act without fear, favour or prejudice.

“Instead they have acted with fear, favour and prejudice to advance some or another political agenda, further eroding the little trust South Africans might still have left in them,” he wrote on his blog.

“It is, indeed, shameful.”

“How on earth will the NPA ever prove that the accused formed a common purpose to murder their colleagues?

“A common purpose with who — the police?” he asked.

He said the NPA might be using the charge as a way of keeping the men in jail, as accused murderers were less likely to get bail. “That is manipulation of the law.”

Wiechers said the prosecution undoubtedly had a hidden agenda: “to save face”.

“The whole prosecution is absurd and truly untenable.

“The most one could say is that the workers had a common purpose to commit public violence, but murder, and that against their colleagues? It’s far-fetched.”

Coetzee, a criminal law expert, said the prosecution amazed him. “No court would fall for that.”

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa described the decision in a letter to President Jacob Zuma as “bizarre”.

“It is ironic that those who pulled the triggers are walking free while the victims are behind bars.”

Both he and Cosatu demanded that the prosecution be suspended pending the report of the commission of inquiry into the violence at the mine. Cosatu added that it was “absolutely enraged”.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga simply referred sister paper Beeld to Radebe’s statement, declining to answer questions.

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