PRETORIA  - South Africa said Sunday that controversial murder charges against 270 miners over the deaths of fellow workers shot by police, the worst such clash since the apartheid era, will be provisionally dropped. Following a public furore, acting national director of prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba, said that after having sought an explanation from the department’s lead prosecutors, she had taken the decision to review the charge.
“The murder charge against the current 270 suspects, which was provisional anyway, will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance,” Jiba told reporters. A final decision would taken on the charges after a series of investigations into the shootings, which left 34 miners dead, had delivered their findings. They include a judicial commission of inquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma, which has until January to present its findings. A decision and a “pronouncement on final charges to be preferred against any persons involved will only be made once all investigations have been completed,” she said. Thursday’s decision to charge the miners over the August 16 killings during a wildcat strike at the Lonmin platinum mine, in what was the worst police violence since the end of apartheid, had triggered outrage. The workers have been held in custody since they were arrested on the day of the shooting at Lonmin’s mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg, which left 34 dead and 78 wounded.
Courts will start releasing them from Monday after police verify their addresses. The first batch of at least 140 miners, whose addresses had been verified, is due to be freed on Monday while the rest should go home on Thursday.