South Africa’s public prosecution agency have provisionally dropped murder charges brought against 270 miners for the killing of their colleagues shot dead by police, its chief said.
“The murder charge against the current 270 suspects, which was provisional anyway, will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance,” acting national director of prosecutions Nomgcobo Jibo told a news conference on Sunday.
Jiba said some miners would be released at their next court case, which was due on Monday, while the rest would be released on September 12 once their addresses were confirmed.
Murder was added to the charge sheet against the miners last week after originally being charged with public violence, illegal gathering and attempted murder.
She said other charges including public violence would remain.
The August 16 shootings by police killed 34 miners and wounded 78 in the worst display of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994.
Sunday’s announcement follows a barrage of criticism from political parties, trade unions, civil society and legal experts.
Meanwhile, a strike at Gold Fields’ KDC gold mine is likely to continue on Sunday night, the mine said on Sunday afternoon.
“We don’t produce over the weekend, but we’ll know by 21:00 [local time] tonight whether the strike has been resolved,” Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche said.
“From our understanding, it has not been resolved yet.”
The first shift of the week begins on Sunday night.
Around 12,000 workers went on strike on Wednesday night last week.
To date, two night shifts and two day shifts had been lost, including Friday, according to a statement issued on Friday.
It appeared that a core group of between 1000 and 2000 workers had been preventing their colleagues from going to work, said Lunsche.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was not involved in the strike, he said.
Amcu has been blamed for illegal strikes in the platinum sector, including Lonmin, where 44 people were killed last month.
Gold Fields’ South African head Peter Turner said on Friday the strike appeared to be the result of disagreements within organised labour.
“Based on informal feedback from employees, the strike appears to be related mainly to disagreements within organised labour and related structures on the mine, although we cannot confirm this,” he said.
“We appeal to all stakeholders to continue to act with restraint and to find peaceful solutions to their differences.