Waking up to the news that South Africa’s crime intelligence boss is missing, amidst rumours of murder, should not feel like just another ordinary day in Africa. But gauging by the reactions of the general public on internet news sites, this kind of news comes as neither a shock nor a surprise. It is with a sinking feeling that the nation’s faith in its criminal justice system has reached an all-time low.
Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli, who is widely known as South Africa’s ‘Top Cop’, has been issued a warrant of arrest for a murder he allegedly committed 12 years ago. Corruption is the word of the day. But a subtle reminder to our compatriots that we are neither the judge nor the jury in this case, is certainly in order. When our public figures find themselves in hot water, we tend to almost immediately adopt the attitude of ‘guilty until proven innocent’, unfairly convicting before a fair trial is held.
Jacob Zuma was labeled a rapist before he had the chance to prove he was innocent. Glen Agliotti was guilty of Brett Kebble’s murder before he even appeared in court. The famous Texas Conviction case in the 1980s when Carlos DeLuna was executed for a murder he may not have committed, should serve as a warning to the South African public, because labelling someone a ‘murderer’ or ‘rapist’ is as hard to retract, as it would be to bring DeLuna back to life.
No matter how frustrated we become with our justice system, appointing ourselves High Court judges, is not going to solve the problem.
Without disputing the fact that seemingly guilty people have walked away scot free, some even teeing off on the golf course in KZN, big fishes like Jackie Selebi have found themselves lumped with 15-year sentences behind bars; a reassurance that justice can prevail.
We can’t call for justice when have made ourselves the judge, jury and executioner, because that way our minds are made up before the system has even had a chance to prove itself capable.