Dedicated courts to deal with xenophobic attacks

The National Prosecuting Authority is working with the police and the judiciary to bring perpetrators of the xenophobic attacks in the country to book by dedicating special courts and magistrates to some of the affected areas.

So says National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana, who was addressing the justice and correctional services committee in Parliament this morning on the NPA’s strategic and annual performance plans.

Nxasana said the prosecutions boss in KwaZulu-Natal had appointed a senior deputy director as a co-ordinator of the process.

“These attacks this year started in KwaZulu-Natal and what they (KZN) have done is to approach it in a multi-disciplinary manner where the judiciary are on board, they have provided dedicated courts to deal with these matters and dedicated magistrates to deal with these matters.

“The matters are then referred to the chief prosecutors, who are also dealing with these matters themselves and refer the dockets to the senior public prosecutions for screening. Therefore once there is an arrest, the police will immediately notify the prosecutor, who will be allocated a senior prosecutor who will work together with the police,” Nxasana said in response to a question from African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart, on what steps they were taking to prosecute the attackers, which he felt would serve as a deterrent for other perpetrators.

This was in regards to the on-going attacks on foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg, which has resulted seven deaths and thousands of foreign nationals displaced. He said they were hoping that by using this approach, they would make sure that there would not be situations when they would come back and point fingers when a case was not properly investigated.

“The prosecutor is involved from the beginning of the arrest. In Gauteng, there is a similar approach, but what they haven’t done is to allocate dedicated courts but only dedicated personnel in the form of the magistrates and prosecutors and these matters in Gauteng are handled in the office of the DPP and he will allocated if and when they arise to the state advocate and senior state advocate in his office, which is what has happened in the case of [murdered Mozambican national] Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra township.”

Outcome of other cases
Committee chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said he did not understand how the perpetrators were not arrested when they appeared on televisions admitting to acts of violence against foreign nationals. Nxasana was also grilled on their position on the case of slain Stellenbosch University student Inge Lotz, the outcome of Shrien Dewani’s trial, the status of the case where former judge president of KwaZulu-Natal, Chiman Patel, is suing the state for R3-million in damages for malicious prosecution on false charges and many others.

Earlier this month, the Mail and Guardianreported that Patel had sent a letter of demand to the national director of public prosecutions and others seeking the damages. Nxasana said they had received the letter and had referred it to the relevant unit in their office.

“The legal affairs division is busy dealing with it. And we haven’t received a summons so far. Yes, the letter of demand is a consequence of the charges that were laid against him, which were subsequently withdrawn,” he said in response to a question from Democratic Alliance MP Adv Glynnis Breytenbach.

On Dewani, Nxasana said all of them were not happy about the outcome of the case.

“We have asked for a report from the DPP of this province, we received the response and it is one of the sad stories where we could only rely on the evidence before us, especially the one of the persons who were allegedly involved in the matter and we did not have control of him when he took the stand and recanted from his original statement.

“That is the sad story and unfortunately there was little we could do about it. But we are very much concerned about it and have learnt a lesson from what happened there and are discussing the matter with a view to try to find ways of dealing with similar matters in the future.”

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