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HOUSE OF THE WEEK

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

South African Court Frees Miners Charged With Murder


A South African court has freed about 50 miners after murder charges against them were dropped. The workers sang and danced as they were set free. The charges were laid under a controversial apartheid era law
ELEANOR HALL: A South African court has freed about 50 miners after the government dropped its murder charges against them.
The charges were laid under a controversial apartheid era law.
Brendan Trembath prepared this report.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dozens of South African miners celebrate their freedom. They've been in custody for weeks after a protest at a platinum mine turned violent and 34 mine workers were shot and killed by police.
Report: South African President Zuma, vows probe in killing of 34 miners.
This miner says he was arrested for nothing. All they were doing, he says, was fighting for their rights. He says the police were sent to kill them.
Public anger has been mounting. The miners were charged under an old apartheid era law. The miners might not have fired the fatal shots, but they were deemed to have had a common purpose in the murder of their co-workers.

More: SOUTH AFRICA MOURN THE DEAD AT LONMIN'S MARIKANA MINE


The common purpose approach was originally used by a white regime to crack down on black opponents. It was opposed by the then opposition, the African National Congress, but not it's in government and relying on a law it once condemned.
There are several layers to the miners dispute. Phillip de Wet from the Mail & Guardian newspaper who's familiar with the situation spoke to the BBC.
PHILLIP DE WET: This is a dispute which originally started around the recognition of a relatively small union, a union that did not have organisational rights at the gold one mines, in early June or late May started demanding those rights.
Those demands then grew to include wages and came to address a number of other issues but ultimately it started again as the union looking for the right to organise on the mine. And you know, that perhaps feeds into unhappiness with general conditions, but again the politics within unions and between unions seems to be at the root of that.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: The dispute at the platinum mine is not isolated. Thousands of miners are also on strike at a big gold mine. They are angry with mine operators but also union bosses.
PHILLIP DE WET: There is a certain degree of unhappiness among workers and among members with the national union of mine workers, and that certainly did play a part in the Marikana situation developing initially.
What we did see there was as a province, the north-west province where Marikana is located was particularly unhappy with the national union of mine workers and there was a lot of internal politics there, within the union itself.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: The South African government has called on mining companies to come up with a better deal for miners - that includes higher wages and housing.
Phillip de Wet from the Guardian again.
PHILLIP DE WET: Conditions on mines have never been ideal, you know. Go and speak to any miner in South Africa and they'll tell you that this is a tough job, it's a tough, dangerous job, it's a tough dangerous job for which you aren't paid a lot of money.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: Some striking workers have been demanding that their basic wage be more than doubled.
ELEANOR HALL: Brendan Trembath with that report.
 EXPLORE:  World News     South Africa 


Edited By Cen Fox Post Team
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