Two weeks after South African police opened fire on a group of 3,000 workers and killed 34 people protesting at the platinum miner Lonmin's (LON:JSE) Marikana mine, prosecutors are bringing murder charges against a unexpected group of suspects: the miners themselves.
The odd twist, which may further infuriate locals already shocked and angered by the police action, came as the men appeared in court close to the mine charged with public violence over the clashes on August 16, reports Associated Press.
The nearly 270 miners arrested over this month's violent strikes are accused with the murders of those who were shot two weeks ago, as well as related charges for attempted murder of the 78 miners injured in the shooting.
The prosecutors also convinced the magistrate hearing the controversial case to postpone a bail hearing for the miners until September 6. With this, the workers will remain in custody in three police stations in the area until late next week.
Jay Surju, a South African lawyer, told the BBC that the charge the protesters are facing hails from the aparthied era, which the government used to quell dissent.
"This is a very outdated and infamous doctrine," Surju said. He added the regulation allows the prosecution to apportion criminal responsibility when there is confusion over the exact identity of perpetrators who take part in group-based violence.
Only yesterday Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said conditions on the ground were "still peaceful.” The situation, however, had a turn for the worse as the charges against the miners coincided with a report claiming that many of the victims were shot at close range or run over by police vehicles.
Police had said most of the miners died when officers opened fire as the strikers charged them. Witnesses and journalists who have examined the scene have questioned the police’s account.
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