Court rolls bulging after July unrest, says justice minister

People looting a shop in Durban flee from a policeman on July 12 2021, during the riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
ANARCHY People looting a shop in Durban flee from a policeman on July 12 2021, during the riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

The courts have had their hands full after the arrests of suspected looters during the July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Justice minster Ronald Lamola has revealed that 36 courts heard 873 cases “as the consequences of civil unrest”.

Lamola was responding to a parliamentary question from IFP MP Prof Christian Msimang.

Msimang asked Lamola about the steps taken by his department “to safeguard human rights as provided for in the constitution”.

He also asked: “With reference to the protection of the right to property during the confiscation of allegedly looted goods, what safeguards were put in place by his (Lamola) department to ensure that courts provide access to persons who were deprived of their legitimate property, where they could have an opportunity to ensure their legitimate rights to their property is upheld through a court of law?”

Lamola said the rights of the accused were upheld.

“During the civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the Bill of Rights was observed. The magistrates in which the civil unrest cases occurred managed to process all matters brought before the court in line with the constitution,” Lamola responded.

Durban and its “branch courts” heard 256 cases related to the unrest while Verulam and surrounding courts heard 100 cases, said Lamola.

He said a steering committee comprising police, Legal Aid SA and the prosecution was formed “to ensure that all cases are processed promptly and in observance of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution”.

“There was no record of any confiscation of property which was discussed by the integrated task team which was established to monitor the civil unrest,” said Lamola.

“This does not exclude the possibility that if such information could have been reported to various police stations, the matter will be placed on the agenda of the integrated task team, and should it emerge of any confiscated property during unrest, an appropriate solution will be discussed by the relevant law enforcement agencies.”

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