A South African court is due to start releasing 270 miners who were arrested after police gunned down 34 of their colleagues.
The release was due to start on Monday around 2:00pm (12:00 GMT), after the public prosecutor on Sunday provisionally dropped murder charges brought against the miners for the killings by police at platinum giant Lonmin’s Marikana mine.
“We still have to establish what the numbers [due to be released] are and get a true reflection of what the intention of the prosecution was,” Mapule Keetse, the lawyer for the detained, told the AFP news agency.
Murder had been added to the chargesheet against the miners last week, after they were originally charged with public violence, illegal gathering and attempted murder.
“The murder charge against the current 270 suspects, which was provisional anyway, will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance,” Nomgcobo Jiba, acting national director of prosecutions, announced on Sunday.
Jiba said other charges, including public violence, would remain.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Bulelwa Makeke said on Monday that police had by Saturday verified the addresses of 140 detainees – a prerequisite for releasing them – and that the figure was likely to have increased.
“The police have been working continuously so as they verify, they add the numbers, so the numbers are a moving target,” she said.
The August 16 shootings by police at the mine northwest of Johannesburg killed 34 miners and wounded 78 others 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.
Lawyers for the mineworkers have argued that their detention is unlawful, and demanded their release in an open letter to President Jacob Zuma.
Meanwhile, a strike at Gold Fields’ KDC gold mine was likely to continue.
“The situation is complicated,” said Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from the site of the strike.”Some employees wanted a salary increase to $1,500 per month, and some political players are trying to capitalise on this crisis.”
“A strike in the gold sector would have a bad effect on the economy, in one of the world’s biggest gold producers … It’s worrying investors both in the country and abroad.”
The first shift of the week began on Sunday night. Around 12,000 workers went on strike on Wednesday night last week.
“We don’t produce over the weekend,” Sven Lunsche, Gold Fields spokesman, said on Sunday afternoon. “From our understanding, [the strike] has not been resolved yet.”
Two night shifts and two day shifts were initially lost, including Friday, according to a statement issued on Friday.
It appeared that a core group of between 1,000 and 2,000 workers had been preventing their colleagues from going to work, Lunsche said.
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 at the Marikana mine, where a total of 44 people were killed last month.
Peter Turner, Gold Fields’ South African head, 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.”