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North West - Marikana miners are being charged with the premeditated murder of their colleagues, a move Julius Malema described as “madness”.
On Thursday, nearly all 270 accused miners crammed into the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate’s Court building to hear what the state’s new charge sheet says.
They each face 34 counts of “planned and premeditated murder committed in furtherance of a common purpose”.
The case relates to the shooting dead of 34 miners by police during a protest at the Marikana mine in North West on August 16.
“Those comrades have been charged with murder. Are they saying they have murdered their own comrades?” Malema asked after the hearing, while addressing protesters outside the court.
Malema questioned why none of the police officers involved in the shooting were facing charges.
“Now they are turning and say they killed those people. That is madness. Even a drunkard can’t say that.”
The new charge sheet listing the murder charges was produced along with a request by the defence for a postponement, and sparked fresh protests by the defence.
The charge sheet referred to “planned and premeditated murder committed in furtherance of a common purpose”, in addition to charges of attempted murder, public violence and illegal possession of dangerous weapons.
The initial charge sheet had referred only to the charges of public violence, attempted murder and a more serious “Schedule 6” offence without specifying whether that referred to murder.
The court granted a request by the state to postpone the matter for seven days to allow it time to complete investigations.
The court has been chaotic this week, with confusion over the number of suspects arrested, whether they were charged with murder and why only 24 were initially brought to court.
On Thursday, all but six of the accused were brought to court, after the defence said their right to a fair trial would otherwise be prejudiced.
The state confirmed that 270 miners face charges. Six of these are still in hospital under police guard.
In the main courtroom, 114 appeared, while their 150 co-accused watched on an overhead projector linked to the adjacent Court F.
Security was tight. Only 10 journalists and a handful of the accused’s relatives were allowed inside.
On Monday, the state submitted a certificate from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirming that the Schedule 6 offence referred to was murder, sparking protests by the defence.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Nigel Carpenter said the defence had known that the Schedule 6 offence could have only meant a murder charge as no rape or armed robbery was involved.
“We are very confused. The State has handed a new certificate. This is irregular,” said advocate Lesego Mmusi, who leads the defence team.
“What is prejudicial is that the state has now added the list of people killed… What is it that the state is doing and for what purpose?”
Magistrate Esau Bodigelo granted the postponement.
Malema said: “This magistrate is afraid of the whites.”
The bail application will be heard on