S Africa: Opposition files charges against deputy president

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An opposition party filed criminal charges against South Africa’s deputy president and other officials on Friday for their alleged involvement in the police shooting deaths of 34 miners during labor unrest.

The Economic Freedom Fighters filed charges of murder, attempted murder and the conspiracy to commit murder against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the miners’ deaths during a violent 2012 strike in Marikana, in North West province. The party also laid charges against the national police commissioner, the then police and mining ministers and the directors of the Lonmin platinum mine.

The strike over wages lasted about six weeks, and saw thousands of miners assemble on a nearby hill, refusing to return to the mine. An operation to move the gathered miners led to police shooting 112 miners, killing 34 on Aug. 16 2012. Violence in the weeks before the shooting led to the deaths of 12 more people throughout the strike, including policemen.

The South African government appointed a commission of inquiry, led by a retired judge, to investigate the largest loss of life in a police operation since the end of apartheid. The 645-page report, released last week, exonerated Ramaphosa and the then ministers of police and mining.

The report, released nearly two years after the shootings that shocked South Africa, criticized the police actions on the day and called for a further investigation into National Police Commissioner Gen. Riah Phiyega’s fitness for office. The report also found that the police commissioner of North West province, Lt.-Gen. Zukiswa Mbombo, had made reckless decisions leading up to the shooting.

The Economic Freedom Fighters based the charges on the evidence in the report, said party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Ramaphosa refused to comment on the charges, saying in a statement he respected the commission’s findings.

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