On the 29th of August 2012, 270 Lonmin Miners were accused of the murder and attempted murder of the 34 miners who were shot and killed by the South African Police Service during the Marikana strike. The charges were constructed according to an apartheid era law, which allows for charges to be drawn up on the basis of a ‘common purpose’ and was used to arrest MK cadres for the crimes of their comrades. Advocate Johan Smit, Director of Public Prosecutions, who was responsible for the decision to charge the miners, was careful to avoid this connection, and chose rather to refer to a separate case where an exchange of gunfire between police and armed robbers resulted in the robbers being changed for the death of an innocent bystander killed by the police. In a press interview (02/09/2012) Smit struggled to explain how the Miners could be compared to armed robbers who were firing on the police. This poor reasoning suggests the charges were not motivated by sound legal principles but perhaps political reasons, a sentiment echoed by the miners and concerned civil society groups.
On the 20th of August 2014, the murder charges against the Lonmin 270 miners were dropped. The charges were withdrawn by Magistrate Esau Bodigelo on the grounds that it would have been impossible for the state to win the case. Dali Mpofu, the lawyer representing the miners expressed his relief that the charges had been withdrawn and hopes that the remaining charges will similarly be thrown out. The miners still face charges of public violence and the murder of two police officers, two security guards and non- striking mine workers.
With The Farlam Commission of Inquiry drawing to a close, we eagerly anticipate the final findings and hope that all those who are guilty of committing criminal acts at Marikana are brought to justice, without fear or favour.