Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 08/30/2012

South Africa charges Marikana mine workers with murder of colleagues

South Africa has charged workers arrested earlier this month at the Marikana platinum mine with the murder of 34 colleagues, all of whom were shot and killed by police, the BBC reports.


Policemen react after firing at protesting miners outside Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, on Aug. 16. (Siphiwe Sibeko - REUTERS)

A spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority told the BBC:

“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.”

The BBC also reported that the Ga Rankuwa magistrates court near the capital, Pretoria, had rejected bail applications from all 270 workers. Six of the workers are still hospitalized with injuries sustained in the shootings.

The charges come at a time when the South African Labor Ministry had hoped to sign a peace agreement to meet the demands of striking workers at the mine, which is owned by Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer. The likely effect will be to escalate the strike, observers say.

The decision to charge the miners with murder could also further jeopardize President Jacob Zuma’s chances of reelection in December. Earlier this week, analyst Peroshni Govender wrote in an article published by Reuters that the killings had already undermine Zuma’s populist appeal.

“South African’s President Jacob Zuma rose to power as a man of the people but seemed a world away from the masses when he stood in a suit under a parasol to speak to destitute miners,” Govender wrote.

The killings at the Lonmin mine have been described as the deadliest incident of police brutality since South Africa became a democracy in 1994.

See images of the shootings below:

By  |  12:46 PM ET, 08/30/2012

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