By Devon Dick
LAST WEEK Thursday, 270 miners were charged with the murder of their colleagues who were shot by police. State prosecutors charged the miners under the apartheid-era common purpose doctrine. 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.
The strike turned violent before the police shooting, with the death of 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, who were hacked to death. The protests were triggered by demands for a huge pay rise and recognition of a new union.
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 because the prosecutors argued the miners were part of the crowd whose actions provoked the police into opening fire. Former African National Congress youth leader Julius Malema has reportedly condemned the decision as "madness". Indeed, it seems as if South Africa has gone mad.
Indeed, the decision to prosecute the miners is incomprehensible. It ranks with the comments of the Missouri Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin, who in defending his anti-abortion stance, under all circumstances, including rape and incest, cited medical authority and proffered that if it's a "legitimate rape", the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down and prevent pregnancy. There have been police excesses in the Caribbean, but no one condones such atrocities, and actions are taken against the police.
On July 18, Guyanese riot police allegedly used live rounds to disperse opposition supporters who were protesting against hikes in electricity rates in a mining town. The protest left three persons dead and 20 others injured. A police official was dismissed and a commission of inquiry has been established.
The recent apartheid-flavoured incident is happening when the South African ruling party is celebrating 100 years. The South African government appears insensitive to the needs of the miners and has created a climate where an old heinous law from apartheid era can be used to justify charging miners for the killings done by the police. Unfortunately, there is talk that for too many ordinary South Africans access to landownership is still difficult and not much has changed since apartheid ended.
This prosecution has made evil good and made the good evil. This is twisted and warped morality and justice. It shows a disregard for the sanctity of human life and natural laws of justice. This is oppression to the maximum. This is like a man attending a party where there are girls in dancing shorts and he rapes one girl and the other girls are charged with rape for provoking the rapist by wearing shorts.
On Sunday, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu called for Tony Blair, former British prime minister, and George Bush, former United States (US) president, to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. He also needs to raise his voice against this travesty in his backyard.
The Jamaican government invited the South African president, Jacob Zuma, to be the guest of honour at our 50th anniversary celebration, and Jamaica was the first country to impose economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa. So, we need to register our disgust at this madness.
Devon M. Dick, PhD, is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew and author of Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building, and The Cross and the Machette. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.