Justice South Africa style – is it up for it?‏

Reeva Steenkamp killed by Oscar Pistorius

Reeva Steenkamp killed by Oscar Pistorius

Anni Dewani murdered

Anni Dewani murdered

The problem in South Africa is that the justice system reportedly  lacks resources – sufficient money, modern  facilities, and competent skilled people. Because in the modern developed World major all investigations have become a state of art event and things like forensics play a major part but have moved-on to an incredibly high level of scientific capability – there is no way that all countries, including admirable places like South Africa can keep-up is there?
Other justice systems therefore need to adapt to their own situation and not pretend, or attempt, to reach the same standard or emulate the procedures of America, or England; or Australia or wherever surely, otherwise the victims of crime  will be let down? Forensics need to be more basic in many countries and rely on techniques of say a decade ago don’t they? Trying to carry out procedures requiring the highest of sterile environments for instance  needing dozens of expensive high-tec laboratories & equipment can only lead to tears all round.
The Police can make mistakes, even if they are not corrupt, particularly when they are inexperienced, or badly trained, or poorly resourced, or insufficiently equipped, or under pressure.
Good and expensive defence lawyers in South Africa  will easily identify the pressure points in any shambolic investigation and exploit them and all management mistakes – so in general the rich can get off, while the poor suffer bad justice because the system is geared up against them.
For example we see Oscar Pistorius, who had admittedly shot to death a young woman, was reportedly a gun fanatic (allegidly in possession of associated illegal guns & materials), an internationally travelling  high profile celebrity figure (clearly in a position of power and wealth to influence people & matters associated with his court case on charges of premeditated  murder and such other things) – so how comes a High Court judge gave him bail a year before his trial? Not only gave him bail, but granted him surprisingly soft & generous bail conditions (including return of his passport and permission to travel the World!) – something that shook most observers and it certainly wouldn’t have happened in the UK! No doubt Pretorius’ bail conditions have given excessive time for team training & coaching and strategy planning – including apparently trying ‘screaming’ to sound like a woman (presumably not good enough to be presented in evidence?)!
Mr Pistorius has appeared now at his trial in his own defence and to face dogged cross examination. He cleverly, if not deviously,  avoided all the obvious predictable pitfalls, but has been adjudged by most commentators of having been economical with the facts in the slaughter of his girlfriend. The problem the prosecution face is of course that there can be no “proof” of what he was actually thinking when the pistol in his hand (an experienced gun user to boot)  fired 4 shots, claimed to be  ‘by mistake’, to end the life of an innocent young lady in the most horrific way. At the end of the day the Judge (without the benefit of a Jury)  will no doubt have to weigh-up ‘provable facts’ against witnesses & the Accused’s believability to decide the initial  fate of Mr Pistorius (don’t be in any doubt there will be appeals to follow!).
Us television voyeurs will have minimal chance of adjudging witness’ evidence as the Court decided to allow TV  in but permit those on the stand to reject visibility during evidence (as for example defendant Oscar Pistorius sensibly did?) – in an English court is is considered essential for witnesses to be seen as well as heard, to properly consider their veracity!
[One disgusting element of the TV coverage, is seeing female supporters greeting  Pistorius as a hero with white balloons and hugs outside the Court – at the end of the day he killed a young woman, whatever the Judge’s final verdict about premeditated murder didn’t he? Hardly right to fete him then is it?
There is of course another high profile South African trial in the offing – that of the British husband of a Swedish 28 year old young woman Anni Dewani (nee Hindocha)  – a bride shot & murdered in Cape Town  on her honeymoon in South Africa. The accused had left the country only a few days after his wife’s killing, and returned to the UK before he was fingered as a suspect and someone who had orchestrated the crime. That crime was some 3 years ago of course (and three other men have already been convicted of the murder), but husband  Shrien Dewani repeatedly thwarted extradition to answer potential charges – because of medical ‘depression’. The South African authorities have doggedly stuck to the task of getting him back there though  to answer the accusations made against him, and throw light on what really happened to that equally innocent young lady who was murdered. Mt Dewani was final sent to South Africa in early April. He can be classified as another rich defendant. He claims total innocence of course. He will only stand trial though if the South African doctors decide that he is mentally fit to do so.
[The South Africans are well aware that the World’s spotlight is on their justice system again in this post apartheid era with these two killings. Views of the situation will be coloured both by the processes and the verdicts reached].


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