Clogged court rolls addressed at first ever case flow conference

Simoniah 2

The Wits Justice Project’s Simoniah Mashangoane was asked to speak at the inaugural Court and Case Flow Management Africa Conference held in Johannesburg last week.

Simoniah, representing the WJP, was one of the only speakers focussing on issues faced by inmates and detainees on the ground. Her presentation highlighted the cases of four former inmates, Dudley Lee, Thembekile Molaudzi, Thuba Sithole and David Mkhwanazi, who were all victims of inefficiency in the court system.

Speaking of the WJP’s investigation into these cases, and many others of this nature, Simoniah urged conference attendees to concentrate not only on statistics but also on the faces behind stories of injustice.

“I would encourage participants to really look at these case studies and keep them in mind during the conference. If we are truly interested in seeing changes in the criminal justice system then we cannot look at numbers or policy in the abstract. We will only see real change when we start with the people affected by the system.”

The aim of the two-day conference was to discuss methods of addressing the serious problem of overloaded court rolls, with specific reference to remand detainees, and to make room for discussion about corruption in South Africa’s criminal justice system.

According to a National Efficiency Enhancement Committee (NEEC) report presented by Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), 77% of time lost at courts is because of unavailable parties. This includes the accused, legal representative or witness not showing up, and even missing or unavailable court documents.

All of these factors contribute to people like Dudley, Thembikile, Thuba, David and many more remaining behind bars for unnecessarily lengthy periods of time, sometimes for crimes they did not commit.

Advocate Mzinyathi noted that while many gains have been made to combat both congestion and corruption, there is still much work to be done, by all parties, to ensure the system works in the best interests of the country.

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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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