Licensed to kill in lawless SA

By Jeremy Gordin and Eleanor Momberg [summarised]

One hundred and thirty-three murders - 69 of which were committed more
than two years ago - and as yet not one murder conviction.

A disgraceful fracas in the Johannesburg city centre, with Metro police
closing off part of a highway and exchanging live gunfire with
policemen, yet, two months later, no charges have been laid.

These are just two scenes from a society in which lawlessness has
apparently become the order of the day, rather than safety and security.

Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies
in Pretoria, said: "If we continue being a lawless society, which is
what we are doing, we are well on our way to anarchy. The point is that,
as admitted by Johnny de Lange, the deputy minister of justice, the
system is not working.

"The second point is that, if the law is broken, then the authorities
must act. But we have so many cases in this country of selective law
enforcement that the wheels have come off in general."

The Sunday Independent this week attempted to find out what progress had
been made in four high-profile incidents that occurred in the past few
years - the police fracas, the deaths of 69 security guards during a
strike in 2006, the murder of two Johannesburg Metrobus drivers during a
strike in 2007, and the xenophobic violence in Gauteng.

No one has been convicted of murder in connection with the deaths of the
69 security guards who died during the security guards' strike between
March and June 2006. Many of the guards, who were accused of being scabs
during the strike, died in the network of railway lines that connect
Pretoria and the East and West Rands with Johannesburg. Most were flung
from trains. But many were also shot or severely assaulted.

"In cases, like these, where many were killed mainly by being thrown off
trains by their supposed colleagues, it's very difficult to make murder
charges stick," he said.

No charges have ever been laid for the March 2007 murders of the two
Johannesburg Metrobus drivers, who were found burned beyond recognition
in Kagiso on the West Rand, during the Johannesburg bus drivers' strike,
a senior official of the Johannesburg metro said.

"The thing is, where you have political involvement, where the unions
are involved, there are not going to be charges brought," said the
official, who asked to remain anonymous. "That's the way it is. You can
forget about it."

There was better news regarding the 62 people murdered during the
xenophobic violence in May. A number of cases have been prepared in
connection with the xenophobic murders. But none has come to court yet
and Tlali Tlali, the spokesperson for the national prosecuting authority
(NPA), was unable give any firm dates for trials.

Tlali said that 56 cases relating to xenophobic violence were "trial
ready", but had been postponed for further investigation and bail and
legal aid applications.

The charges listed by the NPA for the xenophobic violence had theft,
robbery, rape, public violence, house breaking, assault, inciting public
violence and arson appended to them - with murder low down on the list
of the charges.

Regarding the fracas on June 25 this year, when 400 striking
Johannesburg metro policemen blocked off part of a highway and had a
gunfight with police service members, Wayne Minnaar, the spokesman for
the Johannesburg metro police department, said that the department would
hold a press conference this week at which it would be announced whether
the incident would be dealt with internally or by the NPA in open court.

The Sunday Independent has contacted Charles Nqakula, the minister of
safety and security, a number of times since Thursday midday, asking
whether he had any additional information about any of the four
incidents, and asking him to comment on justice being delayed being
tantamount to justice denied.

But the minister had not responded by the time of going to press.

* *This article was originally published on page 1 of **Sunday
Independent* <http://www.sundayindependent.co.za/>* on August 24,
2008 *


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