JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Mar 15 – Nine police officers appeared in a South African court Thursday over the deaths of three miners in the days before the 2012 Marikana massacre, when 34 striking workers were shot dead.
They are the first officers to be in court over the traumatic events of nearly six years ago, when police broke up a wildcat strike that had turned violent at the Marikana platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg.
The officers, who were granted bail by the court in Rustenburg, face charges of murder, attempted murder and subverting the course of justice.
The charges arise from killings on August 13 2012, three days before police opened fire on a group of workers shooting the 34 miners.
In documents read out in court Thursday, the prosecution said police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of striking miners that was trying to prevent other workers from reporting for duty.
“Pandemonium ensued, resulting in the violent confrontation between the police and miners,” prosecutors said.
Three miners and two police officers were killed.
The prosecution said the miners had “posed no danger” to the police at the time.
Three days later, 34 miners were gunned down in slayings that were the worst incident of police violence in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Other charges against officers in court on Thursday relate to the failure to disclose a body of a miner in a police van on the day of massacre.
The official inquiry established by then president Jacob Zuma put much of the blame for the deaths on police tactics used to disperse the 3,000 strikers.
Survivors and families of the dead have campaigned for justice, demanding that police officers face the court.
South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, last month said he wanted “healing and atonement” over the massacre.
Ramaphosa has been dogged by allegations that he was partly responsible for the slayings.
At the time, he was a non-executive director of Lonmin, the mine owner, and had called for police to take action against the miners.