Last week, in the infamous “sunflowers case”, the Supreme Court of Appeal reversed a decision of the high court and acquitted Pieter Doorewaard and Philip Schutte of the murder of 15-year-old Mathlomola Jonas Mosweu near Coligny.
The judges found that the police had made a hash of the investigation. On the surface it may appear to have been incompetence, but there is a perception that they were reluctant to act against (or were being protective towards) the two men because they were white. They were then galvanised into action through public pressure, either botching the investigation or manufacturing a case to appease expectations.
Whatever the origin of the debacle, the public should pay attention to what happened subsequently, which is that the prosecution proceeded on flimsy evidence, and a judge determined guilt in spite of the flimsiness of the state’s case and the unreliable and contradictory evidence of a single witness.
The inescapable conclusion is that the case was steamrollered towards a desired conclusion because of the political and public pressure arising from the racial character of the case. We will never know the truth, and Mathlomola’s family will never have justice.
Then there is the case of Andile Lungisa, the thuggish former Nelson Mandela Bay councillor who served a mere 91 days of a two-year prison sentence before his release on parole on Tuesday. Both cases give the impression that the judicial process is being manipulated. In the Coligny case, it was initially subverted by inaction, then by misdirection. The accused got off because the entire process had been compromised, and because they had the benefit of civil society activists capitalising on this.
In Lungisa’s case, there is every appearance that, in spite of the process having worked, it was undone by a political decision by the Department of Correctional Services, which granted parole contrary to the applicable regulations.
Neither case provides satisfaction.