In the recent past, many have observed that South Africa’s criminal justice system operates in parallels.
There is one system for ordinary folks – me and you – in which there is usually a speedy conclusion of cases. And the system for the rich, mighty and powerful – including those who are closer to those who run the institutions tasked with dispensing justice without fear or favour.
In the latter scenario, justice has appeared to move at a pace that even a snail might consider too quick. A case in point is that of former president Jacob Zuma, which has dragged on for years now and the end is still too far away for anyone to imagine – and it is at great cost to the state.
The National Prosecuting Authority appears to have dragged its feet on many matters, such as that of Glenn Agliotti whom the court ordered to be criminally charged after he was found to have been an unreliable witness in the case of the late former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.
But this week two other cases came back in our news space to remind South Africans of the existence of a dual criminal justice.
First, Afrikaans lobby group AfriForum announced its intention to institute a private prosecution against Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema for money laundering. This relates to the 2009 contract On-Point Engineering received in Limpopo. Malema, who held shares in the company through his family trust, benefited financially from On-Point. He was charged with fraud and corruption in 2012 by the NPA but the criminal case was never finalised. Most South Africans had forgotten about it until it was resurrected by AfriForum this week.
The other case is that involving Zuma’s son, Duduzane, who – four years ago – crashed his Porsche into a taxi, resulting in the death of Phumzile Dube. A court said Duduzane should be charged by the NPA. Until Thursday this week the court order appeared to have been forgotten. The NPA announced it would now charge Duduzane after he failed to meet a deadline to make a representation.
Lots of discussion ensued about AfriForum’s announcement, with many arguing that Malema was being targeted for championing land expropriation. Others said Duduzane was facing prosecution only now because his father was no longer president.
There should not be a need to have side discussions or have others considering private prosecutions if the institutions that are supposed to dispense justice without fear or favour did their job. It’s a fact that those with deep pockets will go all out to avoid convictions, but equally the state must have all its ducks in a row to ensure that such challenges are defeated easily in courts.
Maybe a priority justice system should be created to ensure cases involving the mighty and powerful are handled speedily and fairly. That way ordinary people will see justice being dispensed equally and know that they can trust the system.