Courts: trials adjourned as protesters use pepper spray

2010-08-18 00:00

THE high court and the magistrate’s courts in Pietermaritzburg were forced to adjourn hearings yesterday after most of the administrative staff had gone on strike.

At the deeds office, adjacent to the high court parking area in Pietermaritz Street, strikers released pepper spray into some offices and in the corridors, and the office was closed by mid-morning.

People who were exposed to the spray were forced to exit the building hurriedly, and it was closed to the public. Staff were later given permission by the registrar to leave.

An attorney who was in the deeds office when the spray was used said people who were busy working began to cough and splutter as the spray took effect.

The spray was not used openly or directed at any person, and was sprayed out of sight of those inside the offices.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan confirmed that the strikers also used pepper spray at the Arts and Culture Department to force staff to leave their offices.

No drastic side-effects, apart from discomfort, were reported by the victims.

At the courts, a number of workers claimed to have been intimidated by strikers into joining the strike action.

Toyi-toyiing groups of strikers gathered outside the gate of the high court, blocking the main entrance.

One of the trials adjourned was that of five accused charged with the murder and robbery of a prominent academic, Professor Samuel Zondi, who was smothered to death and his Alexandra Road flat set alight on February 17 last year.

As the strikers moved around the city in chanting groups, the gates to the magistrate’s courts were locked and the high court gates were manned by guards.

A handful of courts that did not require the services of interpreters or sten­ographers were able to continue with their work.

At hospitals, things were mostly quiet, after disruptions last week, but protesters barricaded the gates of Estcourt Hospital, threatening everyone who wanted to gain entry to the hospital.

Last week paramedics at Edendale Hospital were prevented from driving car accident victims into the hospital premises. At least one person was reported to have died as a result of the strike.

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