Justice Under a Tree in Orange Farm

Community members gather in St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in Orange Farm (photograph by Mfuneko Toyana)

Community members gather in St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in Orange Farm (photograph by Mfuneko Toyana)

Click here to see this article as it appeared on page 15 of The Star (26 August 2013)

By KYLA HERRMANNSEN

There are no courts in crime-ridden Orange Farm, it emerged at a community event facilitated by the Wits Justice Project (WJP) in St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church last week which revealed the urgent need for a court in the sprawling settlement of RDP houses and shacks, just 45 kilometres from the Johannesburg CBD.The discussion focused on access to justice in Orange Farm, examining the difficulties faced by this impoverished community who face rising crime rates and recent violent xenophobic riots.  Legal Aid have agreed to visit Orange Farm once a month to provide free legal advice – a right enshrined in South Africa’s constitution – to those in need.

Lehlohonolo Mashifane Candidate Attorney at Legal Aid South Africa addresses the community. (photograph by Mfuneko Toyana)

Lehlohonolo Mashifane Candidate Attorney at Legal Aid South Africa addresses the community. (photograph by Mfuneko Toyana)

“We don’t believe the community of Orange Farm has access to justice” said community paralegal Bricks Mokolo. The closest court is in in Vereeniging, about 40 kilometres away. Mokolo cited the absence of a court in Orange Farm as the main impediment particularly since most community members live below the minimum wage or are unemployed. As a result, transport fees to Vereeniging pose a major problem. Justice Centre Executive at Legal Aid South Africa, Thami Manaba, says the lack of a court is an “injustice to the people of Orange Farm.”

The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Lilian Njoko-Moreki admitted that ideally there should be a court in Orange Farm, but emphasised that “for a fair trial, you must attend your trial”. She suggested community members lacking in funds should consult the local Police for assistance in attending their trials.

Chaired by Jacob Sebidi, a member of The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the panel included Mokolo, Lehlohonolo Mashifane Candidate Attorney at Legal Aid South Africa, Osmond Mngomezulu an attorney for Pro-Bono, Njoko-Moreki and Thandi Maduna, a producer for local radio station, Thetha FM.

Explaining that Orange Farm is a fast-growing community, Manaba said, “a court is long overdue.” According to Mokolo, who funds his community paralegal work through collecting recycling materials: “Orange Farm is in Gauteng but it’s like the Transkei, it’s rural.”

“We ask…the Department of Justice to build a court for the Orange Farm community” said Mokolo to thunderous applause. “There are people who aren’t even aware there are free lawyers,” added Mokolo.

Osmond Mngomezulu of Pro-Bono providing community members with free legal advice at the clinic after the discussion event (photograph by Mfuneko Toyana)

Osmond Mngomezulu of Pro-Bono providing community members with free legal advice at the clinic after the discussion event (photograph by Mfuneko Toyana)

Following the discussion, community members received free legal advice under a tree in the church’s dusty courtyard. “If they can’t come to you, you have to go to them,” said Legal Aid’s Manaba.

Kyla Herrmannsen is a member of the Wits Justice Project, which investigates prison conditions and miscarriages of justice. The project is based in the Journalism Department at the University of the Witwatersrand

Advertisements

About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: