Court Week [5/5]

Photo: http://www.timeslive.co.za

Our last day in court was one of our slower days. I suppose that is what happens when you wait for a story to happen.

A group of us headed to a court we thought would have a lot of cases which we could write human interest stories on. When we got there one of the lawyers told us that she was going to have a really interesting assault case, so we stuck to that court.

We got the unique opportunity to go down to the court holding cells to speak to some of the people awaiting trial. Their stories were really sad. They told us about how one had to buy the bare necessities in jail just to get by.

They pay anything between R50 and R100 for a bed or blanket. One toilet is shared between 100 men (all sharing a cell meant for about 40), a toilet which has no partition to speak of. Their toilet paper is even rationed. It was really nice getting to speak to the men in such an informal manner, getting their side of the story.

The lawyer expressed her discomfort with the fact that prisoners awaiting trial get lumped with actual murderers and rapists. Some people awaiting trail wait for months and even years for a trial date to be set, that means a lot of time is spent mixing with hardened criminals.

Postponement, after postponement came but no mention of the assault. The person who had committed the assault , Anna was sitting right by us.

She had apparently stabbed her husband’s pregnant girlfriend with a broken beer bottle. This all transpired ko’Spotong in Newtown. We had no doubt that that would be our most interesting case. So we carried on observing with the hopes that our case would be next.

That never happened. One complication after another lead to the case being postponed. So this ended up being my last submission:

Grown man weeps for bed

Pheladi Sethusa

A prisoner’s plea for a bed fell on deaf ears yesterday in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court.

Doctor Gule (40) had tears in his eyes when he asked the court for a moment to speak after Magistrate Naseema Kahn  had postponed his case to Tuesday May 28.

A visibly upset Gule immediately piped up after the announcement. He asked to be given some money if he was being sent back to prison. “I have to pay R50 for a bed if I go back there,” said Gule.

Kahn replied, “Tax payers pay to keep ya’ll in there. You need to take that up with correctional services.” She added that living conditions were not in her jurisdiction and that he should write a letter to the people whose concern it is.

His attorney, Charlotte Snell, explained that once a case had been heard for the first time, those in custody were moved from police station holding cells to maximum security prison, Johannesburg Prison (Sun City).

Gule has been in custody since May 10 for theft. He has been convicted for stealing iron-steel rods from a construction site in the Johannesburg CBD, the value of which was unstated.

As Gule carried on making his plea, his voice began to break and tears started rolling down his cheeks.

He explained that the conditions in prison have been unbearable and that they were treated “like animals in there”.

Up to 100 men live in his cell which is meant to house only 40. They share one toilet in the cell and their toilet paper is rationed.

“Sometimes I have to sleep next to the toilet,” cried out Gule. There were audible gasps in the gallery.

Nell said that those who had not yet been sentenced, like Gule are worse off when sent to prison because they got no privileges like sentenced prisoners.

The magistrate however, was unmoved. She repeated that there was nothing she could do to help him. Gule walked out of the court disappointed, heading into a dungeon of uncertainty.

Court Week [2/5]

Today we headed to the South Gauteng High Court, which was just a few blocks away from the Magistrates Court but the two are worlds apart.

Photo: showme.co.za

Just from observing the kind of Advocates who were heading up the stairs into the building (with young assistants pulling their big bags behind them and masses of paperwork in their free hand) we could see that this would be a totally different experience.

We were chaperoned around the building by The Star’s Omphitlhetse Mooki. She had copies of the day’s court roll so we could all make a decision on where we wanted to go. We went to about three different courts which were postponed or already done before we found something fun to start off with. We went to watch motion court presided by Judge Kathy Satchwell.

I haven’t seen many judges in action, save for the one’s on my idiot box but oath she the best I’ll probably ever see. She was wearing shades in court like a real OG and spitting fire at the Advocates. She is a no nonsense kind of lady but also quite kind at heart.

She was willing to go above and beyond for some cases which were at a standstill because of other people’s incompetence. “There are the most incompetent, useless people downstairs,” she said in reply to an applicant who wanted to get a hold of his trial transcripts.

Anyway we imagined that being in her courtroom we would have the most fun and get the juiciest stories. We were mistaken. After our second round of motions we decided to give in to our tummies and went off for lunch. at this point not a single one of my classmates had a story.

By two o’ clock we were in a bit of a panic. it seemed like there was nothing interesting going on anywhere. Every courtroom we tried more tedious than the next. Finally at about 3pm things started to happen for us all. I ended up in court 9F, covering an unlawful arrest and detention case.

 R150 000: THE PRICE FOR POLICE BRUTALITY?

*Names changed to protect identities

Pheladi Sethusa

The South Gauteng High Court was the stage for a case which involved an accident, alleged unlawful arrest and a fistful of police brutality yesterday.

Taxi driver Khaya* is suing the minister of police for R150 000 in damages, with interest, for his unlawful arrest and detention.

Constable Maseke*, was the defence’s first witness called by Advocate Malala*. He said that an accident in Fordsburg between his state vehicle and Khaya’s minibus taxi led to his arrest.

“The robots weren’t working at the intersection on May and Terrace, and he (Khaya) jumped the flashing red robot,” said Maseke.

When Khaya’s legal representative, Advocate Van Rooyen* cross examined Maseke, it became apparent that more had happened at the accident scene than the witness had let on.

Van Rooyen read out Khaya’s version of events to get Maseke’s reaction. In Khaya’s version of events, he reached the intersection first and had the right of way.

Maseke responded, “If he had stopped first he wouldn’t have hit me with the same impact, in fact I would have bumped him.”

Van Rooyen went on to say that after the accident Khaya was instructed to get out of the vehicle but could not do so because his chest had been injured in the collision.

Khaya was then forced out of his taxi and two officers hit him with their fists. He eventually fell to the ground and they then went on to kick him, which is when Maseke joined in.

Maseke denied this vehemently. He admitted that he had left out chunks of the events on the scene of the accident because his statement would have been too long, but said that Khaya’s version was untrue.

Judge Nyathi* was amused by the inconsistencies that arose in Maseke’s testimony, even more so when his colleague Constable Mudau* took the stand.

His version of events effectively made Maseke’s testimony seem unsound. He placed himself on the scene but did not take responsibility for the things Maseke claimed he did on the scene, like arresting Khaya.

Sergeant Rameila* was the third person on the witness stand and for the most part his events did not differ much from Maseke’s. However, his testimony was cut short as the court adjourned for the day and will continue on May 22 at 10am.

We were bummed that we didn’t get to see what the other witnesses would have added as things were getting really interesting just as we adjourned. But we might go back tomorrow morning to see how the story ends before we have to head off to the Magistrates Court again.

Peace.