2 Sep 2012

Zuma says he can't interfere in miners' case

5:06 pm on 2 September 2012

South African President Jacob Zuma says he can't interfere in the case of the 270 workers at the Marikana platinum mine who have been charged with murdering their own colleagues.

Police shot dead 34 miners two weeks ago during a strike at the Marikana mine, owned by Lonmin, the world's third largest platinum producer, sparking a national outcry.

Police said they opened fire after being threatened by a crowd of protesters who advanced towards them, armed with machetes.

The 270 miners, six of whom remain in hospital, were arrested during the protests.

They were charged on Thursday, with the prosecutors arguing they were part of the crowd whose actions provoked the police into opening fire.

The charges against the miners have caused outrage in South Africa, where television footage appeared to show miners were shot dead by police, and leaked information from coroner's reports suggests some were shot in the back.

The BBC reports that in a tersely worded statement President Zuma's office said he would not give into demands by a group of lawyers representing the 270 miners that their clients should be released by 1pm on Sunday.

Otherwise, the lawyers warned that they would apply to the high court to order the miners' release.