South Africa's top prosecutor said today that her department is withdrawing controversial murder charges against 270 miners for the killings of 34 striking co-workers shot by police.
The announcement follows a huge barrage of criticism from political parties, trade unions and legal experts.
Even Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had challenged the decision to charge the miners under an apartheid-era law that opened the government to accusations that it was acting like the former brutal white rulers.
Acting national director of public prosecutions Nomqcobo Jiba said the charges of murder and attempted murder would be formally withdrawn but that other charges including public violence would remain.
"Final charges will only be made once all investigations have been completed. The murder charges against the current 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court," she stated.
The miners are expected to be released on bail today.
At the Marikana mine, just 5.7 per cent of miners had turned up for work on Friday.
Talks to end the strike are due to resume tomorrow after the weekend funerals of the 34 workers killed by police.
Lonmin is desperate to restart production at its mines, which have been idle for three weeks.
And unrest in South Africa's mining idustry seems now to have spread from the platinum sector to the goldfields.
Bullion miner Gold Fields have said that about a quarter of its 46,000 workers have walked out on strike, apparently over the extent of a funeral cover agreement.
Around 12,000 miners have been on an "unlawful and unprotected" strike at the KDC mine near Johannesburg since Wednesday.
And workers at a mine east of Johannesburg run by another gold producer Gold One are said to be preparing to go on strike tomorrow to demand higher wages.
Meanwhile, South Africa's police are facing pressure from the watchdog, which has received nearly 200 complaints from arrested miners of being assaulted and abused while in police custody.
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