SOUTH Africa's justice minister yesterday rebuked prosecutors for charging 270 miners with the murder of 34 striking colleagues who were shot dead by police, saying the decision had caused "shock, panic and confusion" among the general public.
The police killing of the strikers at the Marikana mine this month was one of the worst such incidents since the end of white rule in 1994. The arrested miners have been charged under a law dating from the apartheid era under which they are deemed to have had a "common purpose" in the murder of their co-workers.
The African National Congress, whose members used to be gunned down by apartheid police at protest rallies and targeted with draconian laws, has been severely criticised for using similar tactics now that it is in power.
Prosecutors on Thursday charged the 270 miners, already under arrest on suspicion of murder in an earlier shooting at the mine, with the August 16 murder of 34 co-workers at the Marikana mine of the world's third biggest platinum producer, Lonmin, using the "common purpose" law.
The 34 were shot in a hail of police bullets in what has been dubbed the "Marikana Massacre" with videos of the killings broadcast worldwide. Police will not be subject to punishment until the conclusion of a government probe early next year.