Can’t stand the heat, get into the kitchen

Bail ap­pli­ca­tions can’t be heard

Sowetan - - Front Page - By Mandla Khoza

A bro­ken air con­di­tioner and un­bear­able heat at the Tonga mag­is­trate’s court­room forced pro­ceed­ings to be moved into the build­ing’s kitchen.

The cir­cum­stances forced sev­eral cases sched­uled to be heard by the Mpumalanga court in­clud­ing that of a rape, at­tempted mur­der and as­sault to be post­poned, liv­ing lawyers of the ac­cused livid.

The lawyers said their clients were not get­ting a fair trial as bail pro­ceed­ings were aban­doned for the past two weeks be­cause they can­not be recorded in the kitchen. Ac­cord­ing to court of­fi­cials who spoke to Sowe­tan on con­di­tion of anonymity, air con­di­tion­ers in the two court­rooms had not been work­ing for a while. But, on Tues­day when tem­per­a­tures reached a peak in­side, pros­e­cu­tors and pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers de­cided to move pro­ceed­ings to the kitchen which had some ven­ti­la­tion. This, they said, was also to avoid fur­ther post­pone­ments of cases which had not been heard for the past two weeks as a re­sult of the prob­lem. “Yes, we are hold­ing pro­ceed­ings here [the kitchen]. We have no choice be­cause that build­ing is very hot. It is also not safe for us, so we ar­ranged with le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of sus­pects to come to the kitchen each day,” said one of­fi­cial. He said tem­per­a­tures had soared to over 36°C on the day. The court­room can ac­com­mo­date around 200 peo­ple. “You see this build­ing at 36 de­grees now but it’s empty. What about when there are peo­ple in­side?” asked an­other court of­fi­cials. A state pros­e­cu­tor, who didn’t want to be named, said they only go to the kitchen to post­pone cases. Sfiso Ma­bi­lane, a lawyer who at­tended the court to rep­re­sent his client, told Sowe­tan the depart­ment of jus­tice was not tak­ing the rights of of­fend­ers se­ri­ously.

“This is wrong from the depart­ment; our clients’ rights are be­ing abused be­cause they have been in cus­tody for weeks with­out trial be­cause pro­ceed­ings can’t be recorded in the kitchen,” he said. “We are not tak­ing this kindly; we de­mand jus­tice for our clients be­fore it’s too late. We can’t have post­pone­ments all the time.” Depart­ment’s spokesper­son Mukoni Rat­shi­tanga said he was not aware of the prob­lem but would re­fer it to the di­rec­tor of courts.

/ MANDLA KHOZA

Court of­fi­cials hold­ing pro­ceed­ings in a kitchen of the Nko­mazi mag­is­trate’s court.

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