Court Week [4/5]


The trials I saw today, made me think about how foreign nationals are short changed at all levels when they are in a different country.

Two of the trials I watched dealt with the issue of foreign nationals being caught without identification documents on them. I spoke about this earlier in the week, but today it just hit home.

Both men had committed pretty petty offences – one had stolen a pack of Pampers nappies for his six month old daughter. The other had stolen a t-shirt which cost R30. Both of them had an additional charge of being in the country illegally. This has been quite the trend this week.

I understand that a crime is a crime and people must be brought to justice, but seriously why are state funds being used for even the smallest crimes. Why should foreign nationals live in fear every single day and carry their passports or other identity documents 24/7? Something about it just doesn’t feel right.

Feelings aside, I chose to focus on one of the trails and this is what I came up with;

Bang! goes the gavel for foreign national

Pheladi Sethusa

A Mozambican minor suspected of being a major was convicted for not carrying “lawful” identification documents in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court yesterday.

Martinas Johannes (17) from Mozambique stood at attention, with his head slightly hung as his charges were read out.

Johannes was charged with one count of theft. He stole a t-shirt to the value of R29.99 at a JetMart store in the Johannesburg CBD on April 16, 2013.

He admitted that he had concealed the shirt by his waist and he deliberately went past the pay points and headed straight to the door.

The state prosecutor started reading out a second count, of Johannes being in the country illegally but was abruptly stopped by the magistrate, Jabulani Skhosana.

Skhosana explained that the second charge did not appear on the charge sheet so Johannes could not be charged for that.

Skhosana’s response after hearing Johannes’s charge was, “You people are abusing the hospitality of this country that’s why you come here to steal. I can assure you wouldn’t have done the same if you were in Mozambique.”

The issue of Johannes being in the country illegally did not stop there, Skhosana then asked how long he had been in the country for.

Through his Shangaan interpreter Johannes replied, “I have been here since 17 February 2013.” He said his passport had been burnt in a shack fire shortly after he arrived.

Skhosana then went on to dispute Johannes’s age saying that he had been assessed by a doctor at the Hillbrow Community Clinic, who concluded that Johannes was not 17 years old but 18 or 19 years old.

“When I sentence you, I will be treating you like an adult,” concluded Skhosana.

In contradiction to his prior objection Skhosana sentenced Johannes on both counts as opposed to one count.

Considering that Johannes had been in custody for over a month, Skhosana hit Johannes with a R3000 fine or 18 months in prison, wholly suspended for five years.

Should he be arrested for being in the country illegally anytime soon, that sentence would come into full effect. Skhosana explained that he would probably get a heavier sentence if he committed another crime.

“So it’s your lucky day, they will release you from the cells,” closed Skhosana. After 37 days spent in custody, Johannes was finally released.

I plan to write about this issue in greater detail on my personal blog: with greater liberty tomorrow, do pop in.

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