Miners arrested at Lonmin Marikana mine in South Africa will be charged later with the murder of 34 colleagues shot by police, an official has said.
A prosecuting authority spokesman said that 270 workers would be tried under the “common purpose” doctrine.
They were in the crowd which confronted the police, who opened fire, sparking a national outcry.
Police have not been charged because a commission of inquiry would investigate their actions, the spokesman said.
Miners arrested at Lonmin Marikana mine in South Africa will be charged later with the murder of 34 colleagues shot by police
Six of the 270 workers remain in hospital, after being wounded in the 16 August shooting at the mine owned by Lonmin, the world’s third biggest platinum producer, in South Africa’s North West province.
The other 264 workers are appearing in the Garankuwa magistrates court near the capital, Pretoria.
About 100 people are protesting outside court, demanding their immediate release.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Frank Lesenyego said they would all face murder charges – including those who were unarmed or were at the back of the crowd.
“This is under common law, where people are charged with common purpose in a situation where there are suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities,” he said.
Frank Lesenyego said the updated indictments had already been given to the defence and these would be formally delivered to the accused in court, starting on Thursday.
The conflict at the mine was triggered by a dispute over pay and union recognition, which has paralyzed operations for three weeks.
During a visit to the mine after the killings, President Jacob Zuma told workers he “felt their pain” and promised a speedy and thorough investigation of the killings.
Police said they started shooting after being threatened by large groups of miners armed with machetes.
Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed during the protests before the police shooting.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has given details of the commission that will investigate the circumstances around the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine.
The actions of mining company Lonmin, the government, police, unions, and individuals will all be examined.
Thousands of people, some crying uncontrollably, earlier attended a memorial service for the dead.
Thirty-four were shot dead by police during a strike over pay last week.
Previously 10 people, two of them police officers, had died in violent clashes.
Reports of worker action at two other platinum mines have added to industry fears that the unrest is spreading.
The price of platinum has jumped amid concerns about disruptions to supply.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has given details of the commission that will investigate the circumstances around the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine
The commission “has been directed to investigate matters of public, national and international concern rising out of the events in Marikana which led to the deaths of approximately 44 people, the injury of more than 70 persons and the arrest of more than 250 people,” Jacob Zuma said in a televised statement.
He said the commission would have the power to enter premises, compel witnesses to appear and demand documents. Not only security issues but issues surrounding labor policies and working conditions would also come under its remit, he added.
Retired appeals court judge Ian Farlam will head the three-person commission, along with two other senior advocates who are also former judges, reported Agence France-Presse.
The commission should complete its work within four months, Jacob Zuma said, and submit a final report a month afterwards.
Rob Davies, South Africa’s trade and industry minister, said the actions of the police would be investigated with “considerable depth”.
“The inquiry will have to establish the chain of responsibility, who did what wrong and hold anybody who did wrong to account. I think that is a correct process in a democratic society – that if actions are taken against people they have to be on the basis of evidence,” said Rob Davies.
The deadly clashes have thrown South Africa into a frenzy of outrage and grief, say correspondents.
Many relatives have asked how the police – faced with strikers wielding machetes and clubs – could have killed so many in response.
There has been a strong police presence around the mine since the dispute erupted but they were noticeably absent for Thursday’s memorial service, correspondents said, probably due to fears that violence could erupt.
But speaker after speaker also turned their ire on the government, they said, amid a perception that some politicians have been trying to make political capital out of the affair – and a suspicion among some that government has been complicit in the killings.
Church leaders from a range of denominations, politicians and thousands of mourners attended the emotional, hymn-filled service. Hundreds crammed inside the memorial marquee and hundreds more outside.
At one point the service was disrupted by green-clad members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), who walked to the front of the marquee brandishing sticks and machetes, but the service soon resumed.
With his government under fire for allegedly putting corporate interests above worker rights, Jacob Zuma has expressed sympathy with some of the grievances expressed by the Marikana miners.
He has argued the mining sector can afford to increase wages and threatened companies that fail to raise workers’ housing standards with the cancellation of their mining licences.
Visiting the mine on Wednesday, Jacob Zuma told workers he “felt their pain” and promised a speedy and thorough investigation of the shootings.
But fears expressed by analysts and industry executives that unrest could spread to other parts of the mining sector were given weight with reports of worker action at two other platinum mines.
The world’s top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, said it had received a broad list of demands from its South African workers.
Meanwhile, some 500 workers at a shaft in the nearby Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine downed tools on Wednesday, demanding a pay increase and reportedly blocking fellow miners from going to work.
Religious leaders have brokered talks between the Lonmin management and workers in an attempt to break the deadlock in the dispute over pay.
No unions were involved because “they already failed us”, said Zolisa Bodlain, one of five workers who met managers – but the workers vow that they will not back down even without the unions’ help.
Part of the background to this complex dispute is the rivalry between two unions – the long-established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the newly-formed AMCU, which is more militant.
Both will come under scrutiny under the terms of the commission of inquiry set out by the president.
Mining giant Lonmin has dropped its threat to fire miners who failed to return to work at a South African mine after deadly clashes last week.
Lonmin’s decision came after the government appealed to the firm to drop its ultimatum to sack workers if they failed to end their strike by Tuesday.
Last week, police shot dead 34 strikers at the Marikana mine.
The South African parliament is due to debate the killings on Tuesday, amidst a national outcry, reports say.
South African President Jacob Zuma has a declared a week of national mourning and has promised to appoint a commission of inquiry into the shooting.
Mining giant Lonmin has dropped its threat to fire miners who failed to return to work at a South African mine after deadly clashes last week
Mark Munroe, Lonmin’s executive vice president, said firing thousands of workers would not necessarily ease tension.
“I don’t think it’s going to contribute to a more stable environment if Lonmin goes out and puts deadlines and ultimatums and says we will fire everyone if no one comes to work,” he said.
A minister in Jacob Zuma’s office, Collins Chabane, said Lonmin had agreed to suspend its ultimatum in talks with the government.
“I think we need to try to temper the flare-up of emotions on all sides and try to find a reasonable solution to address the problems,” he said on local radio, AFP news agency reports.
Senior opposition party members visited the mine in North West province ahead of a special parliamentary sitting that will debate the incident, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper reports.
“We have heard the workers concerns and we have familiarized ourselves with the situation. We will now be in a better position to ask the right questions in parliament,” opposition United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa is quoted as saying.
About 3,000 rock-drill operators (RDOs) walked out more than a week ago in support of demands for higher pay.
The strike was declared illegal by Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, and the mine was shut.
Clashes between strikers, some holding clubs and machetes, and police culminated on Thursday when officers armed with automatic rifles and pistols fired dozens of shots.
The miners, who are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605) a month, say they want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,512).
South African President Jacob Zuma has announced an inquiry into violence at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine, calling the deaths there “tragic”.
Thirty-four people were killed when police opened fire on striking platinum miners on Thursday.
At least 78 people were injured in the confrontation.
President Jacob Zuma said he was “saddened and dismayed” at the “shocking” events and offered sincere condolences to all families who had lost loved ones.
He said: “We have to uncover the truth about what happened here. I have decided to institute a commission of inquiry. It will enable us to get to the real cause of the incident and derive the necessary lessons.”
The president said his thoughts were with the families of those who had lost their lives but also with the police “who have to intervene in difficult situations”.
President Jacob Zuma has announced an inquiry into violence at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine, calling the deaths there "tragic"
Jacob Zuma added: “Today is not an occasion for blame, finger-pointing or recrimination. Today challenges us to restore calm and to share the pain of the affected families and communities. Today is about reminding ourselves of our responsibility as citizens.”
The president said it was a “cornerstone of hard-won democracy” to allow for peaceful protests, but added that today was “a day for us to mourn together as a nation – a day to start rebuilding and healing”.
Jacob Zuma had cut short his attendance at a regional summit in Mozambique to deal with the crisis.
He will later visit some of injured being treated in hospital.
Some of the strikers’ wives gathered near the mine on Friday, chanting anti-police songs and demanding to know what had happened to their husbands.
“Police, stop shooting our husbands and sons,” read a banner carried by the women, according to the Associated Press news agency.
A strike at the mine began a week ago and had claimed the lives of 10 people, including two police officers, before the incident on Thursday.
Police were then sent to break up 3,000 miners – some armed with clubs and machetes – who had gathered on a hillside overlooking Marikana to call for a pay rise of about $1,000 a month.
The circumstances that led police to open fire remain unclear, but reports from eyewitnesses suggest the shooting took place after a group of demonstrators rushed at a line of police officers.
Police, armed with automatic rifles and pistols, fired dozens of shots, witnesses said.
Police chief Riah Phiyega said officers “were forced to use maximum force to defend themselves”.
She said 259 people had been arrested on various charges.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) accused the police of carrying out a massacre.
“There was no need whatsoever for these people to be killed like that,” General Secretary Jeffrey Mphahlele told Reuters news agency.
The miners, who are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605), say they want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,512).
South Africa is the largest platinum producer in the world and the dispute has already affected production.
Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, has encountered similar labor disputes at the Marikana mine. In May 2011, the company sacked some 9,000 employees after a strike.
Police in South Africa have opened fire during clashes with striking workers at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, leaving at least seven people dead, witnesses say.
South African media reports put the death toll at 12 or even higher.
Police opened fire after miners carrying machetes defied an ultimatum to disarm, reports from the scene say.
The mine has been at the centre of a violent industrial dispute exacerbated by inter-union tensions.
Police in South Africa have opened fire during clashes with striking workers at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, leaving at least seven people dead
Ten people had previously died as a result of clashes since last Friday.
The striking miners had gathered on a rocky hill near Marikana, the third-largest platinum mine in the world.
Some union leaders and police had tried in vain to disperse the crowd, some of whom said they were prepared to die on the hill.
During the clashes, missiles – thought to be either petrol bombs or grenades – were thrown at police, who responded by opening fire, eyewitnesses said.
“There are bodies on the ground; I saw one with a bullet wound on the forehead,” said one eyewitness.
The recent violence was initially thought to have been triggered by a turf war between the long-established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the newly-formed Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is more militant.
However, the AMCU has since demanded a pay rise of 12,000 rand ($1,500) per month.
Lonmin said in a statement on Thursday that the strike was illegal and that any striking workers who did not return to work by Friday would be sacked.
The company said it had missed six days of production as a result of the unrest, and estimated it would lose around 2% of its normal yearly output of saleable platinum. Lonmin’ share price dropped by more than 6% on Thursday on the London Stock Exchange.
The violence has shocked South Africans, with many finding the scenes reminiscent of how the apartheid regime dealt with protests.
Nine people have been killed in clashes between rival unions at a South African mine owned by leading platinum producer Lonmin, police have said.
The dead included two policemen attacked by a mob, and three workers killed by officers, at the mine in North West province, police said.
The violence is linked to a battle for membership between a new and a long-established trade union.
South Africa has most one of the most unionized work forces in the world.
It is also the world’s biggest platinum producer, accounting for three quarters of global output.
Nine people have been killed in clashes between rival unions at a South African mine owned by leading platinum producer Lonmin
There has been a surge in inter-union violence at mines recently.
Earlier this month, another firm, Aquarius Platinum, briefly shut one of its shafts after an attack that left three dead and at least 20 injured, Reuters news agency reports.
Police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said the attackers were deploying “guerrilla tactics”, rapidly forming crowds to carry out attacks – in 5,000-strong mobs – before dispersing.
Lonmin said the situation was “volatile” at its Western Platinum mine, 100 km (60 miles) north-west of Johannesburg.
The plant was operating at reduced capacity and was under heavy police guard, it added.
Police spokesman Brigadier Lindela Mashigo said the two policemen were killed after a mob attacked them near the mine with machetes, Reuters reports.
Police responded by opening fire, killing three protesters, he said.
“We came under attack. The suspects took our weapons. A shoot-out ensued and during that incident three suspects were fatally injured,” the spokesman said.
The violence has been triggered by a turf war between the long-established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and a newcomer, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is more militant, analysts say.
In other cases of union violence at Western Platinum mine, two security guards were hacked to death on Sunday and another two had recently been burnt to death, said Brigadier Thulani Ngubane.
At least three people were killed in a similar round of violence in January that led to a six-week closure of the world’s largest platinum mine, run by Impala Platinum, Reuters reports.