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.

Court Week [3/5]


*heavy sigh*

Had a pretty slow day today, so slow I rested my eyes for a good five minutes *bbm can’t watch*

After getting a R200 parking fine yesterday I was rather reluctant to go back to the High Court but my curiosity got the better of me. I went along with a colleague who also wanted to find out how the rest of the trial would turn out.

In retrospect I should have listened to that little niggly feeling I had on the drive over. Firstly the judge was 20 minutes late, then when he eventually got there we realised that the first witness for the day was also late. So we incurred an extra fifteen minutes of idle chit chat.

When things eventually got underway it was evident that the witness had had time to consider his testimony last night and had very curt answers. The already irritated judge was also quite short with everyone and did not see the need to drag the trial out any longer.

His attempts were in vain though, when the plaintiff took the stand he was up there for an hour straight before they even got to the defense’s cross examination.

The only new information we learnt in those two hours included the fact that “Zola Budd” is the name for a Toyota Hi Ace taxi and that apparently when one police officer arrests someone, all officers present are arresting said person. Illuminating stuff.

I then had a quick lunch at The Guildhall, cnr Market and Harrison street in town. Had the best and cheapest pizza there. Only a scale of 1 to relevant that was probably a zero but oh well.

Anyway thereafter I went off to a trial at the Magistartes Court. It was one of the more dry one’s I have been to this week – but I had to trudge one because our deadline was looming ever closer. Here’s what I managed to get together by deadline this evening:


*disclaimer: Our co-ordinator, Kenichi Serino said how we write our individual stories depends on which paper you would be writing for. For this one, I’m writing for the Daily Sun.

*Names changed to protect identities

Pheladi Sethusa

A courtroom at the Johannesburg Magistates Court turned into an examination room yesterday afternoon, as Sam* (36) walked around to show his scar to the magistrate and attorney’s.

Sam was robbed at gunpoint and assaulted by three men in Cleveland, Johannesburg on July 17, 2012. The men made off with his cell phone and dignity, leaving a bloodied Sam at the bottom of a hill.

“They hit me with what I assume was a brick. I started bleeding and the spectacles I was wearing broke,” testified Sam. He said he fell to the ground as he felt dizzy and could not see.

This is when he left the witness stand to show the magistrate, defence attorney Mendes* and prosecuting attorney Shaka*, the scar above his brow.

“The old scar has been noted,” was Mendes’s reply to the physical evidence.

The cross examination by attorney Mendes focused on Sam’s description of the man in the dock, Sechaba* (21).

In Sam’s statement and testimony he could only remember one of his attackers clearly. This was a man with a dark complexion, short hair, medium build and more distinctively a white shirt and earrings.

Mendes stressed the fact that his client had only one pierced ear and hardly ever wore an earring in his pierced ear.

He also mentioned that Sam had only seen his face partially, therefore he couldn’t be sure that Sechaba was one his attackers.

“I could see him clearly as he cocked the firearm,” said Sam.

The Daily Sun reporter noticed that one of Sechaba’s supporters in the court stands was a man with two piercings, a dark complexion and a medium build.

Sechaba has been in custody for just under a year, he had to spend another night in custody as court adjourned due to time constraints. Court will resume at 8.30am on May 23 to hear more from witnesses.