Strike delays justice

2010-08-30 00:00

BACKLOGS are building up at courts in the city because of the public sector strike.

A legal source who commented on condition of anonymity said the constitutional rights of the accused are being infringed.

While the clerks and court interpreters are taking part in the public servants strike, very few criminal trials have been heard and no bail applications have been possible, which means all those arrested in the last two weeks have been remanded in custody.

“This means that for the past two weeks cases were remanded indefinitely. Without the interpreters and clerks nothing much can be done by the magistrates.

“Prisons are feeling the pinch too, because instead of decreasing the number of inmates, those who get arrested add more to the already existing inmates,” said the source.

But he said a few cases were given preferential treatment.

Such cases include the three high-profile accused in the R200 million fraud, corruption and money laundering case involving former government employees, and one involving Nehawu members who were charged with intimidation of non-striking personnel.

However, Correctional Services national spokesperson Manelisi Wolela played down the pressure caused by the strike on the prison population. “At this stage we haven’t observed insurmountable pressure due to the strike. [It is] only if the strike is prolonged for another week that we can start feeling the pinch.

Correctional officers themselves were preparing to join the strike on Wednesday, but the department has obtained an interdict preventing this. Wolela said the interdict was a step towards ensuring the safety and security of officials, inmates, service providers and the public.

On Thursday, Westville Prison warders had pledged their solidarity by joining the national strike.

Acting National Commissioner of Correctional Services Siphiwe Sokhela said: “the few officers that have thus far participated in the strike action will face disciplinary processes, as participation in any industrial action is prohibited by law and by the recently obtained court interdicts”.

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