Rich Girl vs. Poor Girl: Equal in the Eyes of the Law?

The South African justice system is biased against the poor, according to Glynis Horning in “Rich Girl vs. Poor Girl: Equal in the Eyes of the Law?” Cosmopolitan, March 2015.

Senior journalist at the Wits Justice Project, Ruth Hopkins, was quoted saying “ordinary South Africans must battle a dysfunctional court system where bail is denied for no apparent reason, where transcripts go missing, where lengthy delays put presumed-innocent suspects behind bars for years, and where overworked state-funded lawyers do not bother to question glaring inconsistencies, shoddy evidence and lying police officers”.

Horning highlights the unequal treatment meted out to the indigent by the South African justice system by juxtaposing experiences of the poor and the rich as they navigate the criminal justice system.

She then shines a light on unequal justice meted out to poor women by the justice system. For example, in 2010, 20-year-old Norah Mosai was indicted and sentenced to three years for fraudulently buying R110 airtime on a customer’s card while ringing up a sale. Mosai worked as a cashier to support her unemployed mother and school-going sister. She spent 18 months in jail and was released, but still battles to find work because of a criminal record.

By contrast, in 2013 affluent Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane was arrested and charged with more than 50 counts of fraud and forgery. The outcome of Mpisane’s case? All charges were dropped after a year of court appearances.

Read the article as it appeared in Cosmopolitan: Part 1 and Part 2.






Related Readings

How justice system treats ordinary disabled prisoners

Inequality before the law – Is South Africa’s criminal justice system punitive to the poor?

Broken beyond imagination: South Africa’s justice system

Masipa was wrong: the criminal justice system can cost the poor everything






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

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