270 South Africans striking outside a platinum mine in Marikana have been arrested and charged with murder in a striking legal indirection, the BBC reports.
Violence erupted in Marikana on August 16 when miners carrying clubs and machetes clashed with police. The miners were demanding better pay and better working conditions.
Reports indicate that 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were slaughtered before the clash with the police began in earnest. Although police initially used tear gas and water cannons to control the crowd, the fighting took a grisly turn when police fired live ammunition at the protesters for nearly two minutes, according to eyewitnesses. When the dust settled, 34 protesters were dead.
According to the New York Times, “some of the dead and wounded…were killed far from the scene of the strike or shot in the back, suggesting that they were not directly involved in the confrontation or fleeing it.”
Now, 270 miners—six of whom are currently in the hospital recovering from wounds—will be tried under South Africa’s “common purpose” doctrine. The doctrine, which evokes bitter memories of the country’s struggle with Apartheid, charges members of a crowd as accomplices to a crime.
Families, activists, scholars and politicians have roundly dismissed the charges. Pierre de Vos, a South African constitutional law scholar, calls the charges “spurious,” adding that “no court in South Africa on any set of facts will find the miners guilty through the common-purpose doctrine.”
It remains to be seen whether this legal strategy is a ploy to keep the miners momentarily detained or a serious attempt to put the miners away for good.
The anger and puzzlement that many feel is expressed by Mr. de Vos in a conundrum that might be laughable if not for the tragic circumstances: “If a court were to convict it would be akin to a finding that they had the intention of killing themselves.”
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Reuters is reporting that Mexican federal police have shot and injured two CIA operatives in a car chase through Tres Marias, a popular town for vacationers from Mexico City. The Federales in question insist they confused the CIA operatives for criminals.
Eyewitnesses report seeing approximately a dozen plainclothes policemen shooting at the operatives from unmarked cars and on foot—a signature of gang hits in Mexico—and that the shooters chased the victims for about 4.0 kilometers. Eyewitnesses said that they confused the plainclothes Federales for criminals.
Reports suggest that deft maneuvering by the CIA driver, as well as intervention by separate police squads, likely saved the Americans’ lives.
The policemen involved in the shooting will be detained 40 days for further questioning.
Evidence suggests the shooting was not an honest misunderstanding. AK-47 casings, which are not used by Mexican police, were found at the scene. One of the four cars involved in the chase has also been linked to a previous crime.
One official who wished not to be named told Reuters “this was not an accident.” The official hinted that gang members and corrupt police had coordinated the ambush.
Although the motive behind the attack is still uncertain—some think that drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva, whose brother was killed by Mexican Marines in 2009, might have been involved—the incident is likely to strain U.S.-Mexico relations on the eve of incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto’s first foray into office.
Over the past decade, ruthless hits fueled by the drug trade and orchestrated by gangs have become the new normal in Mexico.