Ga-Rankuwa, North West - The first group of about 50 Marikana miners were released on warnings by the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court on Monday afternoon.
A total of 162 would apply for release from custody on Monday. They were arrested for public violence after the police opened fire on a group of protesting workers, killing 34 and wounding 78 near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on August 16.
State prosecutor Nigel Carpenter confirmed the murder and attempted murder charges against all 270 miners arrested were dropped.
The miners' lawyers put it on record that they wanted all charges to be dropped.
“All the charges are incompetent and should be withdrawn,” Dali Mpofu said.
He said this would be addressed when the trial resumed on February 12 next year.
Magistrate Esau Bodigelo warned the 162 to be released not interfere with the investigation or any witnesses.
They should also not contravene the Public Violence Act, the Gatherings Act, the Dangerous Weapons Act, or the Firearms Control Act.
Carpenter said the State had made travel arrangements to get the miners back to their place of work on Monday night. The workers walked out of court singing and rolling their hands in a motion associated with calling for the substitution of a soccer player.
The men's wives greeted them as they made their way out.
“I'm very happy,” Matidiso Poshodi said of her husband.
“I've been looking forward to this too much.”
One of the workers, Bongani Maqakalana, 27, said: “I'm very happy. I get to see my child.”
The workers boarded minibus taxis supplied by expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema's organisation, Friends of the Youth League, instead of state-supplied transport.
“We don't feel we need that (state transport), they have been in Nyalas a while now,” Sello Difeto, a local businessman said, referring to the armoured police vehicles.
Monday's proceedings were delayed because the miners needed to be picked up from various prisons and brought to court. By 3pm, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Vuyisile Calaza said authorities had found 91 of the miners.
The NPA said on Sunday the physical addresses of these miners had been confirmed, and they could apply to be released on warnings.
“Those whose physical residential addresses have not been confirmed by the police will remain in custody until the next court appearance which is Thursday,” the NPA said.
Last week, prosecutors said the men would be charged with the murder and attempted murder of 34 of their colleagues on August 16.
Following a public outcry the charges were provisionally withdrawn on Sunday.
The murder charges had been brought by the director of public prosecutions in the North West, Johan Smit SC. He told reporters he had evidence that armed workers went to the hilltop in Marikana to attack the police.
“It was desirable for me to put the charges in,” he said. - Sapa