Miners’ ‘hidden’ murder charges contestedComment on this story
Johannesburg - Four suspects in the Marikana massacre are being treated in hospitals under police guard. One of the four is chained in an intensive care unit.
A fifth suspect is appearing in court nursing two gunshot wounds.
This emerged in the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate’s Court yesterday from lawyers representing 270 people arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of 34 people on August 16, while police were trying to disperse striking mineworkers.
Initial evidence was that there were 260 suspects, but their number increased by 10 on Wednesday.
They have all been charged with public violence, attempted murder and a more serious section 6 offence. This offence was confirmed as murder, according to the National Prosecuting Authority, although this was not stated on the charge sheet.
On Wednesday, the defence disputed the murder charge, arguing that its introduction amounted to an ambush, and that there was no evidence linking the suspects to murder.
“When one peruses the charge sheet, there is no charge of premeditated murder against the accused,” said Simon Tlhatlha, for the defence.
Advocate Lesego Mmusi, the lawyer leading the defence team, described the murder charge as perplexing.
In reply, State prosecutor Nigel Carpenter said the defence had known that the schedule 6 offence could only have meant murder. “There are three types of schedule 6 offences: rape, robbery [with aggravating circumstances] and murder. In this case it’s clear no rape or robbery was committed. It’s clear that the only offence they could face here is murder,” said Carpenter.
He added that the only reason the murder charge was not categorically stated was that not all the dead people had been identified and the State could, therefore, not determine the number of murder charges.
Only 24 of the 270 are appearing in court. Earlier suggestions were that this had been an arrangement between the State and defence as there was not enough space in court.
However, the defence said on Wednesday this was an infringement of their right to a fair trial. “If this case was to go to the Constitutional Court, [the judges] might say ‘how do you represent the accused when they are not in court?’”
Carpenter has requested, on behalf of the State, a “further seven-day postponement”. Magistrate Esau Bodigelo was expected to hand down judgment today.