Cry the beloved Constitution

2016-01-25 15:43

Lynch mobs don't do any favours to the rule of law. Nor do they contribute towards advancing the spirit and the ethos underpinning the foundational values enshrined in our constitution. Most reprehensible is when they lynch and assault lawyers in the execution of their duties.

Violently attacking lawyers representing accused in horrendous crimes that anger communities is inexcusable. And unacceptable. If we don't put an end to this insanity the future of our democracy is in peril.

It shames us all.

So what's this about?

A video clip which is doing rounds on the social networks shows a Mpumalanga Advocate being assaulted by a mob of people who disapprove of him representing his clients in a case that has the community resorting to violence.

As a lawyer and human rights advocate what shocks me is the this type of appalling behaviour at this constituional era.

From what I could gather, an Advocate Nico du Plessis, representing two men accused of kidnapping a three year old child, at Nkomazi Magistrate’s Court in Tonga, Mpumalanga was kicked and pulled to the ground.

No amount of anger irrespective of any form of offence a person is accused of committing justifies any form of attack on the accused’s legal representative.

That assault was an attack on the entire legal profession and fundamental rights, such as

(1) the right to legal representation in our Constitution,

(2) the right to dignity, and

(3) right to choose trade, occupation or profession of choice freely.

We as lawyers  would  have failed in our role as defenders of human rights and as educators of ordinary people about these and so many other virtuous qualities that our Constitution pollinated our democracy with.

Of paramount importance is that all South Africans should know that our country is founded on constitutional values, amongst others, human dignity, the achievement of equality and advancement of human rights and freedoms. These rights are what guarantee us an independent legal profession which is free of any form of fear or prejudice.

Trample those rights you become agents to the collapse of one of the pillars of the democracy, the rule of law.

The incident coincides with the Day of the Endangered Lawyers, which took place on Friday the 22nd day of January 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands which recognises the difficulties and threats faced by human rights lawyers of the world.

It beggars belief and logic that 21 years into democracy and freedom South Africa still has people who assault legal representatives for doing their job.

This is reprehensible and unless halted it's a slide towards the abyss that was the norm prior to 1994.

Assault of legal practitioners, in our country, executing their job needs to be treated with the exigency of the highest and most noble calling.

No South African should condone what happened.

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