Fresh violence hit South Africa's mining industry Monday when a shooting at a gold mine left four injured, just as a court readied to free miners arrested after police killed 34 at a platinum mine.
Prosecutors provisionally dropped murder charges against the workers amid a public outrage after the bloodshed at platinum giant Lonmin's Marikana mine in the worst day of police violence in a post-apartheid South Africa.
The arrested miners arrived at a court near Pretoria where about a dozen onlookers rushed to see loved ones who have been detained since police opened fire on a wildcat strike on August 16.
"We are here today to fetch our brothers, husbands and sons," Primrose Sonti, 51, told AFP outside the court, whose son Meshac Mzilikazi, a 35-year-old Lonmin worker, was arrested.
Striking Lonmin mine workers are seen in Marikana, South Africa on August 29. Four people were wounded during a shooting Monday at a South African gold mine in the east of Johannesburg after fired mineworkers attacked reinstated colleagues, police said.
She proudly held a cardboard poster penned with the words "Oh Thank u God for the release" before the arrested filled the public gallery in a courtroom while the public and media were fed a live feed in a different room.
The Marikana shooting, shocking footage of which was beamed around the world, conjured up images of apartheid-era police violence and cast the spotlight on crippling social inequality in South Africa.
Wednesday's hearing was set to get under way when police said four people had been injured in a shooting at a gold mine in the east of Johannesburg.
"We can confirm that there were four people who were taken to the hospital after they were injured," police spokeswoman Captain Pinky Tsinyane told AFP.
The violence erupted after fired workers, armed with traditional sticks and iron irods, gathered on Monday at the Gold One mine from which they had been fired during an illegal stayway in June.
"Some of their members were reinstated... these ex-mineworkers were attacking the workers who were reinstated in the mine," said Tsinyane, adding that the crowd numbered around 200 people.
Four people were arrested for attempted murder.
People gather around the coffin of the woman who collapsed and died on hearing her mine worker had been killed in violence at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. A South African court Monday was due to start releasing 270 miners Monday arrested over the deaths of 34 of their colleagues killed by police, after prosecutors withdrew murder charges against them.
The shooting follows the deadly police action at the Lonmin mine northwest of Johannesburg on August 16 during a wildcat strike, which had already killed 10 people.
The decision to charge the miners with murder triggered outrage, over what in fact was a police crackdown, with South Africa's justice minister demanding that prosecutors explain the charges.
Speaking Sunday, acting national director of prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba said a final decision on whether to press murder charges would be taken after a series of investigations into the shootings.
These include a judicial commission of inquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma, which has until January to present its findings.
Legal experts had slammed the charges, which the prosecuting agency argued were under a common purpose principle that allows a group of people to be charged for acting together to commit a criminal act.
It was once used by the apartheid-era white-minority regime to crack down on black activists who were fighting for equality.
Minister in the presidency, Collins Chabane denied the government played a part in the about-turn.
"The government did not at any stage try to pressurise the NPA people to take a decision," he told foreign correspondents.
Police claimed self-defence in the shooting, after an escalating stand-off between rival unions had already killed 10 people including two police officers during an increasingly bitter strike over pay.
The mine remained shut after talks failed to end the strike. The talks resumed on Monday and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant was upbeat about a breakthrough.
The workers are "prepared to work, provided the company was going to listen to them. I must say the company has listened," she said on Monday.
The strike since August 10 has cripped the world's third largest platinum miner where worker turn out slumped to 4.5 percent on Monday amid threats from strikers on returning workers.
The striking miners, who say they currently earn 4,000 rand a month (around 375 euros or $475), have refused to return unless they get a wage increase to 12,500 rand.
Lonmin says the workers already earn around 10,000 rand when bonuses and other compensation are included.