Loo fight: Prosecutors consider legal action over toilet restrictions by magistrates

2008-05-21 00:00

Aggrieved Pietermaritzburg public prosecutors have approached the Human Rights Commission and are considering launching an equality court application over the alleged refusal by some district magistrates to allow prosecutors to use their toilets.

The Witness learned that the row was sparked on Tuesday by an altercation between a senior public prosecutor and a magistrate — both women — over the use of a toilet in the magistrates’ corridor.

It is alleged that when the prosecutor was about to enter the toilet the magistrate put her foot in the door to block her path and pushed her.

The senior public prosecutor concerned yesterday declined to comment.

However, the incident was confirmed by several sources at the magistrate’s court.

Prosecutors who spoke to The Witness wished to remain anonymous as they fear victimisation.

The Witness was told that the matter was verbally reported to the Human Rights Commission in Durban yesterday, and that a written grievance will be lodged with the HRC.

Prosecutors have also demanded that locks put on the magistrates’ loos be removed forthwith, and issued an ultimatum to the court manager to ensure that this is done.

“We can’t let it rest,” a senior prosecutor told The Witness. “We are all professional people and this is a gross violation of our rights. This type of thing takes us back to the days of segregation. There is no law that says they can do this.”

It is alleged that while there is almost one loo per magistrate in the building, the rest of the court staff, including prosecutors, numbering between 200 and 300 people, are expected to share two toilets on the ground floor.

The public toilets are so filthy that no staff member will even enter the rooms.

The Witness was told by one prosecutor that when she previously complained about being locked out of the magistrate’s toilets she was told that prosecutors “abuse the facilities and the air fresheners”.

Nothing came of her complaint at the time.

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