Justice in South Africa

Today was my first day in court. As a witness fortunately, and not a defendant. Last year my bike was stolen, and then recovered thanks to some quick work by the campus police (aka USBD, Universiteit Stellenbosch Beskermings Diensteerm, or erm.. whatever the English title is (apparently University of Stellenbosch Risk Management Services)). In any case, I received a phone call about 2 months ago out of the blue asking me to come down to the police station. No explanation or anything, just to please come down. So I pitch up there and hang around for 10min, the Sergeant who was supposed to meet me there was out, but eventually another plain clothes cop sorted me out, serving me with my first Subpoena.

So I pitched up at the Magistrate’s Office this morning at 08:30, as instructed. Hung around a while and my old roommate (who was also called as a witness) pitched up shortly before 9. 9:10 and we were all asked to rise (just like on TV :) ).

I had gone into the day assuming I’d be there all day, but I was rather happy when the first 5 cases were all immediately postponed due to the fact that the defendants were absent. On one side this was rather worrying, on the other I wasn’t keen to sit their all day. Half an hour later and my optimism was all but up.

At about 10:45 the judge finished a case, got up and walked out. In a more formal manner than that, but didn’t really say what was happening, everyone else kinda got up and left the room too. So I sat there for the next 40min, with my roommate, not quite sure what was going to happen. Fortunately the cases resumed and at about 12:15 the case was called.

We went up, with the USBD guard who caught the kid, and I got to see the kid for the first time, to be told that there wasn’t enough time left tothet though this case and have it postponed till the 20th of October. Apparently this was the fourth time the case has been postponed, and we were promised that it would have priority on the next day. All 4 of us were “Warned” to be there again from 09:00.

I was slightly disappointed at the way things were handled in general, and sightly annoyed that I skripsiereturn in October, the day before I hand in my skripsie. But I guess it’s not the end of the world.

We were allowed to leave then, and so we went outside and chatted with the USBD guy for a while. He called a vehicle to come pick us all up and take us back to campus. Those 10min were probably the most interesting of the day. He chatted to us about how often he has to come to court, and how he gets frustrated, because majority of the time the students don’t press charges or don’t come witness, so people just get let free.

It was also very interesting to hear him talking with the USBD guy who came to pick us up, chatting about some of the characters that were in court that day, how they recognise certain people, repeat offenders and how they’ve profiled certain people. He explained the way cars were getting stolen and some of the strategies the guys uses. Also how the holidays are actually worse, because there are no students around reporting suspicious people. thousands of students have thousands of eyes, which makes their job easier. It’s great to see guys like that who really want to make a difference, who know what’s going on and take their jobs seriously. It’s good to know they’re looking after us.

So I actually typed half of this last week, after my court appearance, but only got around to posting this now. Also my blog was hacked yesterday. Haven’t figured out how yet, but fortunately just some script kiddie called “Herculephp(but in a more 1337 way) edited my template’s index.php. Fortunately no lasting damage and it was quick to get running again.