On top of yet another one of Action Society’s dockets going missing, magistrates now have to live in fear for their lives because the South African judicial system is in shambles.
“It is an outrage, and the Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, along with Police Minister Bheki Cele, should start taking responsibility for the failing justice system in South Africa,” said Ian Cameron, director of community safety at Action Society.
Rumours of a possible hit surround the death of magistrate and former prosecutor Romay van Rooyen from the Western Cape. The NPA and police who worked with her were saddened and shocked by the news of her death. She played a valuable role in prosecuting sexual offenders as a prosecutor in Wynberg and later in domestic violence matters as a magistrate in Mitchells Plain.
“She was a remarkable woman who did incredible work,” said Cameron. “Her calibre of judicial officers should be able to do their work free from fear of intimidation or even death. We hope responsible magistrates continue serving justice, even under unsafe circumstances.”
Action Society would like to congratulate another upstanding magistrate for taking a firm stance after hearing the docket of Yamkela Sikhafungana – who Action Society is assisting – was not in court on the determined date and could not be traced either. The upset magistrate told the investigating officer to either find the docket or build a new one.
Sikhafungana’s boyfriend allegedly severely beat and locked her up because she stayed at a friend’s place too long. The suspect was granted bail at the end of July. The magistrate postponed the matter for a month after the latest court proceedings.
“We are concerned about dockets going missing at police stations and in the matters where we are assisting,” said Kaylynn Palm, Action Centre coordinator. “We hope that Sikhafungana’s docket will be found. We have spoken to the police officer and understand her side of the story. Action Society has offered to assist if help is needed to build a second docket. ”
Over recent months Action Society has noticed a few issues relating to dockets. In August, GBV survivor Janelle Laattoe’s docket went missing at Delft police station. After Action Society held a press conference to highlight the issue, the docket turned up. In a Blue Downs case Action Society worked on, the docket could not be located, but we eventually found it after calls and back-and-forth trips to the nearby police station.
“It is devastating that GBV-related cases are thrown out of courts because of missing dockets,” Palm said.
According to a quarterly report of the Western Cape Community Safety Department’s Court Watching Brief team, 198 cases serving before the court were withdrawn because of police inefficiencies between 1 April and 30 June this year. Of those cases, 85 were withdrawn due to the dockets not being at court, and 80 cases were withdrawn due to the incomplete investigation.