MARIKANA — Lawyers in South Africa are threatening court action against President Jacob Zuma unless he orders the release of 270 miners facing murder charges after police shot dead 34 of their colleagues at a protest.
Unless Zuma takes action by midday today, the firm of Maluleke, Msimang and Associates wrote in an open letter on Thursday, they will file an urgent application with the High Court demanding the men’s release.
The lawyers representing 270 miners said that their clients had clearly not killed their fellow miners and that it was “unlawful” to keep them in custody while a special judicial inquiry established by Zuma conducts its investigation.
“It is inconceivable that the South African state, of which you are the head, and any of its various public representatives, officials and citizens, can genuinely and honestly believe or even suspect that our clients murdered their own colleagues and in some cases, their own relatives,” the firm wrote, according to News24.
Prosecutors charged the miners on Thursday, using “common purpose” doctrine that was favoured by the former apartheid regime and which attributes criminal liability to every member of a conspiracy for all the consequences that follow.
Police opened fire on a crowd of miners engaged in a strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana on August 16.
The strikers were demanding their monthly wages be more than doubled to R12,500, or roughly US$1,500. Lonmin, the world’s third biggest platinum producer, says the workers already earn around R10,000
when bonuses and other compensation are included.
Separately, more than 150 of the arrested miners have filed complaints that they have been beaten up in police cells by officers, the Independent Police Complaints Directorate reported earlier this week. On Friday South Africa’s justice minister demanded that prosecutors explain why the arrested miners had been charged, a move widely denounced by legal experts. — Al Jazeera