* Experts say measure not used since apartheid times
* Say charges inflame already tense situation
* Talks resume to get workers back next week
* Mines minister says unrest could hit investment
By Ed Stoddard and Jon Herskovitz
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 30 South African prosecutors
on Thursday charged 270 striking miners with murder of 34
co-workers seen being shot dead in a hail of police bullets
captured in videos broadcast around the world.
Prosecution have filed papers invoking a measure called
"common purpose" seldom used since the dying days of apartheid,
arguing the miners were complicit in the killings since they
were arrested at the scene with weapons.
Legal experts said the move will likely collapse when a
court hearing bail applications for the 270 near the mine
resumes sessions next week and lambasted prosecutors for
inflaming a tense situation by seeking a mass indictment that
will eventually be rejected.
"This is bizarre and shocking and represents a flagrant
abuse of the criminal justice system in an effort to protect the
police and/or politicians," Pierre de Vos, a law expert at the
University of Cape Town, wrote in a blog entry.
"The apartheid state often used this provision to secure a
criminal conviction against one or more of the leaders of a
protest march, or against leaders of struggle organisations like
President Jacob Zuma and his ruling African National
Congress have faced increasing pressure over the killings, which
are the deadliest security incident since apartheid ended in
1994, with many saying the government may be more concerned
about protecting its own than miners in shafts.
The government has launched a probe into the killings,
including the deaths of 10 people ahead of the shooting at
Lonmin's Marikana mine, northwest of Johannesburg.
It is withholding any police punishment until the
investigation is over in around January.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate, a
government watchdog, said it had received nearly 200 complaints
from the arrested miners of being assaulted and abused while in
Fewer than 7 percent of Lonmin's 28,000-strong South
African workforce reported for duty on Thursday as the platinum
producer held talks with warring unions, attempting to cool
tensions and bring people back to work.
The world's third-largest platinum producer has been forced
to shut its mining operations for almost three weeks because of
a violent turf war between the established National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM) and militant Association of Mineworkers and
Construction Union (AMCU), which led to the deaths of 44 people
We have a 6.6 percent average attendance across all shafts
this morning," Lonmin said in a statement.
The talks to end the impasse in the platinum mining city of
Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, resumed on Thursday after
dragging into the night on Wednesday.
Gideon du Plessis, deputy secretary general of trade union
Solidarity, said discussions are to secure "a return to
work agreement - with the aim of getting workers back to work on
Monday after most funerals have been concluded".
He said the grievances raised by the striking workers would
then be dealt with and finally, a peace accord would be reached.
Solidarity represents skilled workers, and its members have
not been on strike, but all unions are taking part in the talks.
The 3,000 strikers who have brought things to a standstill
are mostly rock driller operators, who demand a monthly wage of
12,500 rand ($1,500), which would amount to a hike of over 25
percent over what the company says it currently pays, excluding
In Australia, South Africa's mines minister, Susan Shabangu,
said on the sidelines of a conference that the violence was
undermining investor confidence in Africa's largest economy,
which sits on 80 percent of known platinum reserves.
"It is a cause for concern. The tragedy does impact on any
potential investments. Any investor would like to invest in a
stable environment; we've got to recognise that," she said.
Lonmin accounts for 12 percent of the global output of
platinum, used in car catalytic converters and jewellery.
Lonmin has said it may issue new shares to shore up a
balance sheet hit by lost output and revenue, as well as the
prospect of further losses as the entire platinum sector
struggles with soaring power and labour costs and poor demand.