Marikana: NPA must explain

2012-09-02 09:45

Mathatha Tsedu

I am not a lawyer, so I do not for a second pretend to be an expert on law or court procedures or the workings of the National Prosecuting Authority or complicated principles such as common purpose.

So I don’t know what basis lies behind the demand to President Jacob Zuma by the lawyers for the Marikana miners still being held in custody two weeks after being detained, that he ensures they are released forthwith.

The lawyers argued their case for bail in court, apparently lost, and are now calling for the head of the executive branch of the state to interfere in the judicial process that is supposed to be independent of the same executive.

But as I said, I am no lawyer and there should probably be some section of some law that allows for this. Equally, the use of the doctrine of common purpose to charge the survivors of a massacre by the police with the murder of their comrades baffles the hell out of me.

Like Minister Jeff Radebe, I want an explanation of the logic, not contrived excuses, of how whatever the marchers did that Thursday afternoon could be seen as common purpose with the police who pulled the triggers.

In my simple mind, common purpose presupposes acting in unison, having agreed beforehand on what needs to be done, and then face the consequences of their common action.

But also, indeed, if the miners are being charged with common purpose for the shooting, those they are then supposed to have been acting in concert or common purpose with, the police, should be their co-accused.

That has not happened. No police officer has been charged. Their action is a subject of the judicial commission which is probing the causes and culpability of numerous actors, the police included.

And that to me is the right approach. Until the commission rules, there is no reason for the NPA to plunge this country into a sense of judicial and systemic apartheid against the miners.

I am arguing that even if the NPA felt such a charge could/should stick, they didn’t have to charge the miners with murder now.

But then given what the surviving arrested miners have gone through, is it any surprise?

Not only were they arrested, but they were allegedly tortured and some left with swollen faces and closed eyes. While in jail, medical attention has been apparently minimal, with some on chronic medication going for days without. Some with bullet wounds have allegedly not been treated by any medical personnel.

They have been trucked to court in gumba gumbas and left in the burning sun for the whole day, allegedly without water, while prosecutors plead ignorance about the absence of medical treatment and at the same time argue for prolonged stay in over crowded police cells with inadequate facilities.

Buses for the 270 miners

This country that can provide its ministers with million a piece bling wheels, cannot organise buses for the 270 miners. They are society’s outcasts and are being treated by a state that professes to be pro poor as if they are not worthy of humane considerations.

The Human Rights Commission, which should protect their rights, says, almost two weeks post the massacre, that its officials “on the ground” are establishing the facts.

These miners, who started off by withholding their labour to push for better pay and working conditions, are being subjected to what at face value sounds and smells like second rate treatment not in accord with our human rights based Constitution.

Why is this so? The NPA that makes plea bargains with self confessed drug pushers, hired killers and coup plotters, throws the book at the poor and most probably mainly illiterate miners. Why?

What lies behind this seeming callous and hardegat treatment of the vulnerable? I know that the miners were armed, and that some of those on strike were apparently responsible for ten murders in the most gruesome of ways a week before the massacre. If those responsible for those murders are in the 270, by all means charge them with that.

But what cannot be condoned is state apparatus, angered by what happened at Marikana, doing what is being done to these miners. And I suspect it is this frustration that saw the lawyers turning to Zuma, who has correctly said he cannot intervene or interfere.

That however does not deal with the inhumanity of what is being done to the miners. The whole state and its entire apparatus cannot argue lack of manpower to ascertain 270 addresses in this country over a period of fourteen days.

For if that is true, we have an even bigger problem of a dysfunctional state.

- Mathatha Tsedu is a previous editor of The Sunday Times and City Press

  • derek.gunter.946 - 2012-09-02 10:21

    Please just stop man! The whole world feels sorry for a group of men that blatantly attacked the police in wave after wave. There is no pity for robbers in shootouts, there is no pity for gangsters going at the cops and there is no pity for a group of militants who should be working for their wages instead of threatening and acting violent for it. Their trial is due process for the disregard of diplomacy and constant attacks on the people of South Africa. I am a South African with no money and no work but I have never gone at a cop with a panga for it. And if I ever do, please shoot me! These people are fortunate to have jobs, regardless of what they get, but they chose violence instead of effort. Their strike and their actions are responsible for those deaths. If they had done things right and civil, the police would not have been there to begin with. And another point, the boeremag threatened violence and revolution and they are convicted of treason. The ANCYL and its chommies threaten violence and revolution, as well as supporting violent offenders and they get shipped around in range rovers with blue light brigades so that they can sit next to the great and powerful and rabble on about how the state of matters is everyone's fault but the ones who refuse the work they are so lucky to have. I as a citizen am glad that the state does not tolerate these acts of violence. Let's not forget that it is the primary purpose of the police force!

      claudia.meads - 2012-09-02 12:16

      Indeed - you get rubbish, then you get trash.., then you get the leading article. I feel for SA - it seems evident that the majority of South Africans prefer a lawless land. Where will this end - countdown to Zimbabwe...

      gretchen.oswald.3 - 2012-09-02 15:17

      Derek, you could not have sumed this up in any better way!!! Why is so much sorrow shown to a bunch of hooligans, acting like terrorists, yet when our police force are asked to go in and do what they get paid to do (protect people and stop violence), they are immediatly blamed for "INNOCENT lives taken". I tell you something, if somebody came running at me with a panga, spear or any other weapon, I would also shoot (that is if I had a gun)!!! Wouldnt most of us? People need to get realistic. Why protect a bunch of rebels (as you say, have jobs and should be grateful for at having employment)?

      denis.mhendi - 2012-09-02 15:19

      You too stop it I'm sure you are one of that polices,they shot mineworkers and I think you are a visiter here in South Africa.Lot of people they lost their lovely families.I'm a shopstwerd I know the South African law according workers rights.We must wait comision's investigation to get the truth.

  • Bruce - 2012-09-02 10:41

    Their union leaders begged and pleaded with them not to attack the police and their response was "we don't care if we die here today". And so they attacked the police. What part if intent to commit murder don't you get?

  • judith.taylor.56 - 2012-09-02 10:51

    Many were shot in the back or driven over by Nyalas. The whole situation has been mishandled from the beginning and speaks of collusion between the government and Lonmin.

      malcolm.macleod.562 - 2012-09-02 13:27

      Can you point to any credible proof of this? The ramblings of some self styled 'investigative reporter' who is also convinced that the tear gas was some 'doctor death biological weapon' does not count.

      John - 2012-09-02 23:09

      You got that right. Do not be discouraged by the ignorant thumbs down. They most likely are members of SAPS.

  • johan.jacobs.5680 - 2012-09-02 11:47

    Dirty Politics Sir.

  • anton.vonvielig - 2012-09-02 13:21

    Your first sentence says it all. And will you say the same stuff if 34 white people were shot?

      Lunga - 2012-09-02 13:33

      It's not about race, you idiot.

      anton.vonvielig - 2012-09-02 13:37

      It is you idiot, and cheap politics.

      Lunga - 2012-09-02 15:28

      I am not surprised at your view, to be honest.

  • Mike - 2012-09-02 13:32

    Mr Tsedu is overlooking certain key issues in his article. Firstly this was no ordinary strike or industrial action against an employer. Secondly we know that there was more than one agenda. There was incitement to violence and a visible threat to the "peace keeping officers" trying to contain the situation. Despite repeated requests for the strikers to disperse peacefully they chose to resort to violence. There are elements here that suggest organised insurrection to the State and its institutions. Hence the until the details a fully understood and disclosed the incarceration of the perpetrators seems justified.

  • pierre.jonker.16 - 2012-09-02 13:33

    "These miners, who started off by withholding their labour to push for better pay and working conditions". Wrong they were striking illegally, at the behest of two labour Unions wanting their souls. Guess they farked up. As a former editor you should publish the right fatcs! You fail.

  • gavin.simpson.0 - 2012-09-02 13:44

    oh cut the cr&p. these are not miners. they r savage killers.

  • eddy.deepfield - 2012-09-02 13:51

    Where do you come from? Do you know what makes the modern world tick? What is wrong with you? Use your common sense. Maybe, just maybe it is because they killed and tortured two security guards and two Police men and other innocent people, and carried out an illegal strike? Any honest, upright and decent tax paying citizen would NOT be found with such a crowd of violent losers.

  • mark.dare.35 - 2012-09-02 18:20

    Dude, you guys voted these insane ANC morons into power, deal with it. Shut up or ship out.

  • anthonie.vanbosch - 2012-09-02 19:48

    Is it not illegal to carry knives and pangas in the public? If the Police omitted to charge gangs and protesters in the past for carrying these alleged prohibited weapons then Police are to be blamed for this standoff between citizens with dangerous weapons and themselves. Have they created a precedent by not arresting people carrying these weapons? Is the Assegai a legal weapon or is it seen as part of the traditional outfit? Should it be banned from all forms of protests? I think so.

  • juannepierre - 2012-09-02 20:53

    These are south Africans killing south Africans because south Africans promised them something they were never really going to get. Wealth. At what point do you, as a south African, have a heart? this article is written with much heart, don't meet it with such disdain.

  • John - 2012-09-02 23:23

    It makes me sick to my stomach when I see so many comments in favour of the massacre. The mainstream media need to air ALL of the footage from beginning to end not just the PART that shows the SAPS as the good guys!

  • gjfnicholson - 2012-09-03 01:46

    Did people defending the miners not see the footage and photos??? If the cops did nothing, we would've had countless policeman murdered. Why even protest with weapons? You're clearly showing your violent intent. Either way, they didn't shoot enough of them. Maybe the police showed mercy or restraint, at the very least they should be commended for their work.

  • emiel.vandenhoute - 2012-09-03 07:33

    Prez Zuma could ask for his family to settle the ICT case out of court but he couldn't care less about the the unacceptable abusive treatment of miners who, even if we follow the twisted reasoning of the NPA ,were at best accomplices -so far without any evidence of suspicion- while the police, prime suspects of the murders, continue to brutalise with impunity most if not all people innocent of the murders.

  • inkuja.ngaleka - 2012-09-03 12:48


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