NPA shocker is spine chilling

2012-09-02 10:00
It is difficult to decide whether it is legal ineptitude or malice that has caused the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to decide on charging striking Lonmin Marikana miners with murder, attempted murder, public violence, illegal gathering, possession of dangerous weapons, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Either way, it is disturbing. It might be easy to prove the accused gathered illegally or that they carried dangerous weapons.

Murder is a different kettle of fish, though.

It remains to be heard how the State intends to argue that the 269 miners now charged with the deaths of 34 of their colleagues had common intention with the police to kill those who died.

It is a patently nonsensical conclusion reached by the NPA that the miners effectively outsourced their mass suicide to the police officers.

Even if the state were to follow its own logic, it would have to appreciate how bizarre it is, then, to suggest that the survivors of the “mass suicide pact” had the intention of killing their own comrades when they themselves could not have known whether they would emerge alive.

At issue here is not the established, albeit controversial, legal principle of common purpose – a person may be culpable of an offence if fully associated with a criminal act, knowing the possible outcome of the crime, even if he (or she) did not himself lift a finger.

The principle has its place in law. The validity of a piece of law cannot be determined exclusively by who used it in the past.

A piece of law does not become unsound simply because it was used by a bad government.

Using a piece of law in a manner that demonstrates the state is either malicious or ignorant of the law undermines justice.

It takes us back to the dark ages where the opinions of those wielding the biggest club prevailed over reason.

The NPA’s decision is a crass abuse of state power and machinery. To pursue murder and attempted murder charges is a shocking demonstration of the dangers of ceding power of liberty or suppression to individuals who do not fully appreciate the power they wield.

The NPA needs to remember that it is not about pleasing the public, neither is it about serving sectarian interests.

It is about, at the very least, satisfying itself that it is executing its mandate and contributing to the fair administration
of justice.