Apartheid Redux: Platinum Mine Killings Cause Panic in South Africa
Let’s face it – the platinum miners who charged at police at one of the world’s biggest platinum mines this month must’ve known that they were going to get blow to sh*t. But, at the same time, for rock bottom wages, these miners tread 2 miles into the earth in order to mine platinum, having to move 10 tons of dirt for one ounce of the rich man’s gold. So, perhaps therein lies a reason for their cracking and subsequent attack on police.
But the news in the wake of the event that 270 miners who were also on scene will be charged with the murders sounds like a Monty Python curveball of fiction. But, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Indeed, the police killing of 34 strikers in South Africa has resulted in the charging of 270 miners with the murder of their colleagues. South Africa’s justice minister said on Friday that the decision had caused “shock, panic and confusion” among South Africans. The killing of strikers at the Marikana mine earlier in the month represents one of the worst incidents since the end of white rulership in 1994.
Prosecutors said they have invoked the “common purpose” measure due to the fact that the miners were at the scene with weapons and therefore complicit in the killings. Members of the government’s Human Rights Commission questioned if the prosecutors knew the law. The law dates from the apartheid era under which they are deemed to have had a “common purpose” in the murder of their co-workers.
“There is no doubt that the decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public. It is therefore incumbent upon me to seek clarity,” just minister Jeff Radebe said in a statement.
Prosecutors charged the 270 miners with the August 16 murder of 34 co-workers at the Marikana mine of the world’s third biggest platinum producer, Lonmin.
The so-called “Marikana Massacre” will not open police up to punishment until the conclusion of a government probe early next year.
The common purpose law was oft used by apartheid government against blacks to sentence numerous individuals for crimes committed by only a few.
“I blame the management of the company. They are the ones who called out the police. NUM is too busy with politics to help us,” said Lazarus Letsoele, a striking miner.
Legal experts have deemed that the charges should fall when a court hears bail applications for the 270 next week. For them, this represents a sloppy technique to incarcerate the miners for longer. In the meantime, police are facing pressure on a related front, as the Independent Police Investigate Directorate, a government watchdog, said it had received nearly 200 complaints from the arrested miners who they had been assaulted and abused while incarcerated.
The incident marks an important turning point for South Africa in the post-apartheid country. First and foremost, it shows to the world that, despite the end of White Rule in 1994, a culture of apartheid clearly still exists, alienating still the country’s black population.