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.

Court Week [1/5]

Photo: http://www.cultofmac.com

Today we went off to the Johannesburg Magistrates Court to get acquainted with courts and to see our justice system at work.

We began the day by looking at the roll for the day to see which cases/trials  we would want to watch and cover for the day. We were all tasked with finding one interesting case and reporting on it by our 6pm deadline.

It was a bit tricky finding the right court to attend but by midday we had found a few interesting cases and trials to cover. Today we went off in little groups so we could all struggle together, hopefully we all learnt enough today to brave the corridors by ourselves come Wednesday.

We had to be back at the department at 4pm so we could all submit by 6pm. It took me a while to decide which case I would write about because they were all interesting in their own way. We had two drunken driving ones, tax evasion and theft.

What I wanted to write about was a refugee from Mozambique who was charged with theft (he stole a Woolies trolley) and not having any “lawful” identification documents. I didn’t knew that foreigners are obliged to carry some sort of identification on their person at all times or face arrest when they don’t. It seems very 1952 to me. His case made me even more sad when he was sentenced to more jail time because he couldn’t possibly afford the R3000 fine required of him for both “crimes”.

Anyway I ended up not having enough solid information to write that story, so I wrote this one instead:

DIVERSION – A LITTLE KNOWN PLEA

*Names changed to protect identities

Pheladi Sethusa

Guilty or not guilty are not the only choices when a plea is being made in court. People accused of small misdemeanours can plead diversion, which is a plea of no contest against the charges being made.

Thomas* (30) from Berea pleaded diversion to charges of drunken driving earlier today in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court. Diversion is normally only granted to people who commit low value crimes, like shoplifting or possession of a small amount of drugs said his lawyer, James*.

James said that Thomas deserved a diversion because, “he is a taxi driver, a Zulu and a South African.”

The magistrate was not impressed with this argument, saying that his nationality should not divert from the crime committed. To this James replied that it is indeed a mitigating factor in getting his bail dropped.

James claimed that his client could not afford the bail amount which was set at R1000. “Are you taking this on as a pro bono case, Mr James?”, “No I am not,” replied James. The magistrate went on to ask how Thomas could then afford legal counsel but not meet bail.

James asked for Thomas to be allowed to enter the diversion programme. Diversion can only be granted when a person does not deny the charges being made against them, explained James.

The magistrate released Thomas on a warning and told him he can go ahead and enroll for the diversion programme as requested by his lawyer. He would have to come back on May 27 to find out how many hours he would have to serve in the programme.

The diversion programme is run in conjunction with the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA). The programme aims to rehabilitate people who are enrolled.

Once the hours stipulated by the court have been completed, Sibiya must come back to court with evidence thereof. Then his record will be cleared and he won’t have a criminal record to his name.

That is all for today, I am bushed and I have an episode of Isibaya to watch.