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Mourners gather at a hill dubbed the Hill of Horror during a memorial service on Aug. 18 for miners killed during clashes at a platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg, August 23, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

South Africa's top prosecutor says she is withdrawing controversial murder charges against 270 miners for the killings of 34 striking coworkers shot by police.

Sunday's announcement follows a barrage of criticism from political parties, trade unions, civil society and legal experts.

Even the justice minister had challenged the decision to charge the arrested miners under an apartheid-era law that opened the government to accusations that it was acting like the former brutal white rulers.

Nomqcobo Jiba, the acting national director of public prosecutions, announced that the charges of murder and attempted murder would be formally withdrawn.

She said other charges including public violence would remain.

The shootings by police killed 34 miners and wounded 78 in the worst display of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994.

The violent strike, apparently rooted in rivalry between two trade unions, had rock drill operators demanding a minimum wage of 12,500 rand (about $1,560) and complaining that their take-home pay was only about 5,500 rand (about $690).

On August 16, police said they had failed to persuade the strikers to disarm and that it was "D-Day" to end the strike at the London-registered Lonmin PLC platinum mine. That afternoon, striking miners armed with clubs, machetes and at least one gun allegedly charged at police, who opened fire,

Some survivors said many of the miners were fleeing police tear gas and water cannons when they were shot.