Miner murder charges hard to prove

2012-09-01 09:28

Cape Town - Lawyers are threatening court action against President Jacob Zuma unless 270 miners, charged with murdering 34 colleagues shot dead by police, are released this weekend.

Prosecutors charged the workers on Thursday, based on a rule used by the former regime, in connection with the deaths two weeks ago at a platinum mine.

Funerals are due to be held on Saturday for many of the workers killed at the Marikana mine, outside Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg.

On Friday the justice minister demanded that the prosecutors explain why the arrested miners had been charged with murdering their colleagues, a move widely denounced by legal experts.

"There is no doubt that the NPA's [National Prosecuting Authority's] decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public," said Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.

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

He demanded a report on the murder charges following the August 16 shootings, the worst day of police violence since 1994.

Lawyers for the arrested mineworkers went further, threatening President Zuma with court action if they are not released by 09:00 on Sunday.

Arrests illegal

"It is our view that the arrests of our clients were and remain unlawful," they said in an open letter.

The presidency could not confirm if Zuma had received the letter.

Police claimed self-defence in the shooting, after an escalating stand-off between rival unions had already killed 10 people including two police officers during an increasingly bitter strike over pay at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

NPA spokesperson Frank Lesenyego told the media it was normal procedure to charge those arrested during a confrontation with police when fatalities resulted.

No police officer has been charged.

But the common purpose rule, which prosecutors are apparently basing their decision on, would be hard to prove, legal experts said.

"My view is that this decision to prosecute [the miners] is premature, it's outrageous actually," said Stephen Tuson, an attorney at the Wits Law Clinic in Johannesburg.

Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said there was no basis for charges under a 1956 incitement act or the common purpose doctrine, which has its roots in British colonial law.

"Unless what we saw on our TV screens never happened or unless the NPA is hiding shocking and bizarre conspiracy theory-type evidence from us... there could be no possible valid reason," he wrote on his blog.

Rituals held

The chief whip of the ruling African National Congress said an explanation of the police action would "assist all of us to understand how the arrested miners should legally shoulder the sole responsibility for the tragedy that befell the Marikana community and the nation".

On Friday rituals were held for some of the dead before their bodies were taken to their home towns for burial.

A group of singing and dancing men welcomed the coffin of mine worker Mpuzeni Ngxande at the hill where he was shot dead.

A line filed past the open coffin before it was taken into his shack in the nearby informal settlement.

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution condemned the national prosecutors "for acting in a partisan, perverse and irrational manner in bringing charges of murder".

The mine remained shut after the failure of talks to end strike action.

The striking miners want a wage increase to R12 500.

Lonmin, the world's number three platinum producer, says the workers already earn around R10 000 when bonuses and other compensation are included.

"We have no faith in the talks, they are just a distraction to make Lonmin appear as if they are doing something," Joseph Mathunjwa, leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told reporters.

"There is no tangible offer that the employer has made to try and address the cause of the strike, which is the issue of the wages."

  • Sechaba30 - 2012-09-01 09:43

    Whats the use of having Judicial commission of enquiry when Government have found the criminals who killed 44 people.

      wesley.nel.5 - 2012-09-01 10:15

      With my little legal knowledge, I could have told them so.

      hermann.hanekom - 2012-09-01 10:44

      I can see group accountability for ten, but heaven knows how they are going to slap it on the other 34. Anyway it is the New South Africa and the more things change, the more they remain the same.

      pierre.devilliers.9231 - 2012-09-01 12:06

      One would have thought that old Apartheid's era laws would have been removed from the law books for obvious reasons, but it seems these Apartheid era laws are too convenient to just remove, for example in the cases where one quickly need to suppress some human rights…I think the word is hypocritical.

      lacrimose.wolf - 2012-09-01 18:15

      I reckon it's a tactical ploy to keep them in jail and not out on bail. They will eventually come up with revised charges

      kevin.watson.7906 - 2012-09-01 19:36

      Precisely because they do not have the criminals in custody. As is normal in South Africa, the cover up has begun. the incompetent Police Force will bungle the forensic evidence , and the arrested miners will be released and they will then succeed with civil cases against the Minister of Police for unlawful arrest.

      lacrimose.wolf - 2012-09-01 21:04

      The JCI is to investigate organisations' responsibility - LonMin, SAPS, Unions etc. Not the individuals who have been arrested. Those arrested will be charged and then have a trial based on those charges. JCI is there to find out where things went wrong with processes and procedures. They are separate

  • gieljam.gomtor - 2012-09-01 09:45

    Irrespective of being found guilty or not , these thugs will learn and see that they cant and wont be allowed to go around murdering people and damaging property with out some justice and law enforcement taking place .

      kevin.watson.7906 - 2012-09-01 19:38

      On the day in question they never murdered anyone and if the Police are believed injured no one. What therefor is the basis for the charges?

  • Caiphus Molatelo Mahlaka - 2012-09-01 09:59

    Due date is Sunday 09h00 Mr Zuma to release our brothers in prison! Outdated colonial law has been used to charge our brothers by this incompetent,less trained police officers!

      alex.tarr.52 - 2012-09-01 11:03

      It's not colonial, it's from the apartheid regime. And you don't get to decide when a law is outdated, the Parliament you voted for do and they have chosen not to repeal this law. And by the way, the fact that people like Malema intend to incite mass violence if him and his friends don't get their way is the reason laws like this were kept around.

      twin.lock.3 - 2012-09-01 11:42

      When they start calling each other BROTHERS and COMRADE you know there is a sever lack on mental powers. Terminology they learned out of the FIELD COMMUNIST GUIDE FOR DUMMYS.

      randall.j.coetzee - 2012-09-01 12:02

      Brothers? You associate yourself with killers?, if not it's either attempted murder or conspiracy to murder... VUIL! That's what you are! May sound racist but I wish these people were white, I wish they were... Really. And I know you may say \white people don't have the guts to 'strike' \ still I wish that... Would you still call them your brothers? I say \them\ cause I'm not white, don't let the surname fool you... YOU ARE AN IDIOT YOU BLIND SHEEP!!!!!!

      bishop.solitaire - 2012-09-01 15:36

      You sir are a fool, stop bringing old crap to the table.These miners were hooligans, they threatened police with dangerous weapons..YOU would be the first to shoot or run, stop being stupid !

      randall.j.coetzee - 2012-09-01 23:33

      I'll soema also dislike my comment as well... Wanna know what it feels like to be blind

      pierre.devilliers.9231 - 2012-09-02 07:49

      @Alex, Twin, Randall, Bishop : Open your eyes and look at the reaction the shooting and arrests caused, locally and internationally. Sure the miners were not angles, but especially the arrests caused considerable condemnation with local and international law and political experts condemning it. Just because Caiphus used the term "brothers" you now had to oppose, opposition that show some racial bias. Why not look at the facts and decide on merit what is wrong or right, instead of automatically criticising an argument when somebody is perceive to use "struggle era" language. Caiphus is correct; this law had its roots in the colonial era, although the Nats re-introduced it during Apartheid. It was and still is a dubious law. Under current law it has a very restricted and narrow application, therefore it is very much in people’s right to question it’s use in this case.

  • randall.j.coetzee - 2012-09-01 10:01

    Lol... Plastic country this.

  • Peter Zylstra - 2012-09-01 10:15

    Now that it suits them, an outdated law from the previous government is used by the anc. They are actually a bunch of useless incompetent hypocrites!

  • olebogeng.diratsagae - 2012-09-01 10:25

    Hard to Prove its true.Zuma's government and he likes shuting his mouth.

  • Stewart Croucamp - 2012-09-01 10:27

    The truth is always hard to prove in a communist governed country.

  • tshepo.maganedisa - 2012-09-01 10:44

    Some (a very few minority) of the readers have allowed they hatred towards blacks cloud their judgement,if there is a story that is perceived to be in miners favour the government and authorities are criticised but anything otherwise the government and auhorities are praised-i wish people can acknowledge that we are living in a system where even the government can be challenged whether you are black or white our rights are equal.Let us gather our facts before commenting and if its an opinion dont shove down our throats, please.Some of us still wish to see an equal society where black,whites, indians,coloureds and the rest can live in harmony

      tillie.botha - 2012-09-01 11:34

      actually it's quite the opposite it's blacks who hate the whites for what our forefather did we are still getting blamed I say grow up and get on with it. and I wish I earned R12,500 a month let alone all the other perks that come with mining jobs!!!

      msendi - 2012-09-01 11:43

      Give that man a bells…

      bishop.solitaire - 2012-09-01 15:43

      Agree tehepo,people in charge of the miners should have looked after these guys properly. like I said before people dont know what they are fighting about anymore. I welocome any race, religeon as long as we can have peace.

      duane.low - 2012-09-02 04:50

      yes tshepo, one can value your comment .... please note also that +70% of SA are black, and if just 50% of them feel the way Tillie says then how would you feel?....... oh wait the african knows how it feels because of apartheid..... but hang on that dont exist now for how many years?..... so when you were say 7 years old when apartheid was taken away... you would be?? +-25 years old now??? so why are the youth so anti white and pro juju? yes it aint nice being on the receiving end of the "reversed apartheid" but you punish the wrong generation for it.... or at least end BEE and all the other bias programs designed to put a black before a white/indian or other....... just saying

  • lucky.ncube.5 - 2012-09-01 10:45

    Funny NPA ths is ubsurd

  • osama.pascal - 2012-09-01 10:51

    Civil suit coming against the NPA, Chief Prosecutor and the Prosecutor who is doing the case in his or her personal capacity for misleading the court and prolonging the detention of minors under auspices that they are facing murder charges and there is a prima facie case for such nonsense

  • Lee.CPT.ZA - 2012-09-01 11:08

    I think this case is going to set a legal and political precedent in South Africa. I don't think these charges are absurd at all. The miners were acting together with a common course. If they had no intention of attacking the SAPS, why then did they consume muti that would make them invisible and render SAPS bullets as being harmless. the miners intentions were proven with the death of 10 others, prior to the fateful shooting. If these charges are successfully applied, it will change the behavior of all strikes in the future, as any striker can then be held liable for damages, loss of property and even loss of life. Obviously Union management are very concerned as this will have a ripple effect on future such actions. The waiting game is on.... Political interference is a foot and the outcome might not be to everyone's satisfaction.

  • terrylee.heuer - 2012-09-01 11:08

    Well then find them guilty for the murder of the 10 cause believe me they are never going to find the real culprits as far as I'm concerned they are all guilty for those first murders!!!

  • charmaine.mcdonald2 - 2012-09-01 11:13

    Some great comments below, now we wait and see what Zuma does and has to say about these issues.

  • chule.qalase - 2012-09-01 11:14

    Why most white people are so filled with hatred when it comes to this mine killing?

      Amused-Reader - 2012-09-01 11:28

      Because these people represent all that disgusts many off us with black africans. We want to see ourselves as equals, we want to build SA together, we want 'blacks' to step up to the plate and succeed, we need you to. when incidents like this happen we are genuinely devastated and fear for our childrens future ...... Because we cannot comprehend how these people behave, and we can never see these specific people, or those who behave like them as our equals. They disgust many of us,they disgust me !!!

      chule.qalase - 2012-09-01 12:00

      There is just onething I don't understand with white people's comments in this mine incident, you just if you are a normal being can notbe so consumed by hatred and even fail to see reality. There is nothing good about death of people whether it's police or miners. Can you begin to think about the life time effects of this tragedy to the children of the dead people? Am sure most of the dead guys couldn't afford to have the so called life insurances for their kids.

      Amused-Reader - 2012-09-01 15:39

      @ chule\r\n\r\nIt is not that we want anyone to die, but we do want people to accept that we make choices and we are then responsible for the consequences of the choice we make. The policemen, security guards and working miners were innocent and died whilst behaving legally, at the hands of those acting illegally. The striking miners who charged the police carrying illegal weapons, and already having committed mass murder, suffered as a consequence of the decisions they made. Why did they take muti to protect themselves from police gun fire if they didn't intent to charge the police ?? It is sad they died, but it their own fault. I will save my sympathy for the innocents (who are also all black - this is not about race !!!)

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-09-01 15:57

      Chule this was a black on black confrontation.

  • chule.qalase - 2012-09-01 11:14

    Why most white people are so filled with hatred when it comes to this mine killing?

      johan.maree.5036 - 2012-09-01 23:55

      The mine tragedy: What did you expect the cops to do? You can't attack the police and expect them to stand still while you murder them too. Your repetitive question:Why do you ask the same question over and over and over again? Don't you like the non-racist replies your getting, where oh where are these hate filled white people hidding? Word to the wise: If I look hard enough for what ever type of person, eventually I will find that person. Read that last sentence again and really think about it. Ps: The only person here talking about race is you by the way... maybe its you that should look in the mirror?

  • Amused-Reader - 2012-09-01 11:21

    The behaviour of these miners infuriate me, and a surely symptomatic of a far bigger, dare I say, african, problem.\r\n\r\nWhilst they have a right to strike, they don't seem to even begin to comprehend that the mine owners also have a right to say no to wage increase requests.\r\n\r\nThey have shown absolutely no remorse at all for the people the have murdered, or those that they continue to intimidate, but genuinely see themselves as victims.\r\n\r\nThey clearly believe that their attrocious behaviour to date entitles them to at least something from their employers.\r\n\r\nIn any sane country it would earn them a long term in a prison cell, and a loss of their jobs.

      Fikile Magadla - 2012-09-01 11:32

      u r really amusing amused reader for u to be so blind .let the mine owners refuse with the increases and let the mine carry on and be closed and make no profit this is a lose lose situation.yes they killed the police yes they carried sharp objects but they didnt kill their 34 colleagues every one knows who killed them. with whose permission???thats why these guys now are charged with murder to protect Phiyega and happy the lawyers are threatening a strike .I know exactly which side u r on.

      chule.qalase - 2012-09-01 12:05

      Something is wrong with you Amused-Reader!

      Amused-Reader - 2012-09-01 15:30

      @ Fikile.\r\n\r\nFor what it is worth, I think that charging these miners with the death of their own is utter madness, BUT I do think all the minors should be charged over the police, security guards and their fellow workers who they collectively DID murder

  • Henry - 2012-09-01 12:46

    Woe unto the poor miners. I can't help predicting that the results (verdict) of this case will be a suspended sentence after a number of postponements that will happen and regrettably at that time the employer (Lonmin) willhave replaced them with other employees. This is just other sad days for them. Life without employment's very hard.

  • fort.horseman.7 - 2012-09-01 13:03

    What kind of justice system is it to randomly arrest 270 people,then decide to investigate wether they r guilty of murdering of 2 ppl or not.Banana logic!

      crracker.crackerr - 2012-09-01 18:32

      fort.horseman.7 I think you are a liar. Let's wait a bit longer. The evidence will eventually be made public and then we hope you will come back with a retraction of your comment.

  • crracker.crackerr - 2012-09-01 18:59

    The common purpose red herring! If you knowingly and purposefully participate in an illegal act that you know and/or reconcile with will lead to human death you are guilty of murder even if your co-criminals are the victims of the foreseen actions. If you and your pal decide to rob a garage store and you know that the reaction it will evoke will be a killing spree that will likely kill your pal as well as other innocents caught up in it you are guilty of their murders and the murder of your pal as a result of the owner or a bystander shooting him. General principles of criminal law make it clear. Common purpose itself is not the problem. It says no more than that it is deduced that the perpetrators all had the same purpose with their actions. Unfortunately it was elevated to a legal principle to attribute guilt or guilty knowledge to facts instead of requiring the prosecution to prove the actual presence of common purpose in the minds of each accused. Go to the criticism of the rule in De Wet & Swanepoel's Strafreg ed 1 throuth to 3. And never throw old textbooks away. It was NOT a so-called Apartheid rule. The rule or description goes back to old English commom law. The problem with our current law graduates and their lack of appreciation of law is getting more apparent. It includes the lot in the NPA. But, as said. Let's not now throw out the baby with the bathwater. The actual evidence should be sufficient to prove the case of murder against all of the accused.

      lacrimose.wolf - 2012-09-01 21:10

      Of course it's a red-herring. NPA had to find a way to keep the 270 locked up. This is what they came up with whilst they (hopefully) develop a real case. For the prosecution & defense, the outcome of the JCI will be crucial as to whether the trial(s) come before or after JCI report. Law, politics, big business. It's all a game of chess or who blinks first.

  • Malose-Nyatlo - 2012-09-02 06:56

    NPA should be allowed to do their job freely - charges are laid against suspects daily, and many are dismissed in court. Why should this case be different? Lobby groups should not be allowed to take over institutions of government...

  • hlongwanech - 2012-09-02 07:57

    there is no political party that i believe in all of them are worse

  • pages:
  • 1