Protesters demand miners’ release
Pretoria - More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court on Thursday demanding the release of about 270 men who were arrested after violence at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.
Women wearing attire used by mineworkers, including overalls and helmets, were joined by groups of men singing and chanting slogans in the street adjacent to the court.
Some of the protesters were waving sticks, sjamboks and placards. Some of the placards read: “Let them free”, “Down with NUM – Up with R12,500” and “Zuma, where are the workers?”
Several policemen were deployed at the entrance, watching the protesting crowd.
Thursday’s court proceedings will be held in two courtrooms.
Before 11am reporters were allowed entrance into one of the rooms where the detained men had been placed. Some of them were sitting on the floor.
Arrangements had been made to bring all the detained men to attend Thursday’s proceedings. This followed argument submitted by the detained group’s lawyers, saying bringing only a few people to court was an infringement of the others’ rights.
Advocate Lesego Mmusi, for the group of men, criticised the State for that arrangement.
“Suppose this matter goes all the way to the Constitutional Court, we will be asked ‘how were you representing people who were not in court?' What if one of our clients, say number 29, wants to raise his hand and make a contribution?” asked Mmusi.
In the second courtroom, the group of men would follow the proceedings.
Since the first appearance on August 20, police had brought to court only a few of the detained men because the court did not have room to contain all of them in one session. These men would inform their colleagues of what transpired in court.
The number of detained men had increased from the previous 260 because some of the men were being released from hospital and taken into custody. The number represented in court on Wednesday was 270.
The matter was adjourned after submissions from the defence and the State. From Monday, the State presented evidence requesting the court to further postpone the bail hearing of the group because of ongoing investigations.
The defence has asked the court to turn down the State’s request, saying the seven-day postponement made on August 20 was enough.
The lawyers want the group to be released on bail.
A group of 260 men were arrested on August 16 after the police opened fire on protesters gathered on a hilltop near Lonmin's Marikana mine, in North West. Thirty four protesters died and 78 were wounded. The number increased as more were arrested on their release from hospital. - Sapa