File photo: A policeman fires at protesting miners outside Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg.

Johannesburg - The Office of the ANC Chief Whip commended Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Friday for asking the NPA to explain why Lonmin mineworkers had been charged with murder.

“The National Prosecuting Authority's explanation to the minister will assist all of us to understand how the arrested miners should legally shoulder the sole responsibility for the tragedy that befell the Marikana community,” said the ANC Chief Whip's spokesman Moloto Mothapo.

He said the minister had the right to seek clarification on the matter on behalf of the public.

Police shot dead 34 striking mine workers and wounded 78 while trying to disperse them on August 16. Another 270 were arrested and charged with public violence.

On Thursday, the NPA said the miners would also be charged with murder and attempted murder for the deaths of their colleagues.

Later on Thursday, Radebe called on acting National Director of Prosecutions, advocate Nomgcobo Jiba to explain the murder charges.

“There is no doubt that the NPA's decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public,” he said.

“It is therefore incumbent upon me to seek clarity on the basis upon which such a decision is taken.”

The decision to charge the miners has been condemned by several organisations.

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) said it was shocked by the NPA's decision.

“Casac condemns the NPA for acting in a partisan, perverse and irrational manner in bringing charges of murder against the people arrested at Marikana,” said its spokeswoman Masutane Modjadji.

“We are shocked that the NPA has seen fit to make use of the notorious legal concept of 'common purpose' to lay these charges and thereby seek to lay the blame for the massacre at the hands of the protesting workers.”

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it was outraged by the decision.

Spokesman Patrick Craven said it exposed the lack of proper training within the SA Police Service and the NPA for failing to find evidence and charge those responsible for the offence.

Law expert Pierre de Vos said the decision was “shameful”.

“... They have acted with fear, favour and prejudice to advance some or another political agenda, further eroding the little trust South Africans might still have left in them,” he wrote in a blog on Thursday night.

“It is, indeed, shameful.” - Sapa