The Wits Justice Project is raising awareness of the plight of awaiting trial prisoners through research and articles in leading publications.
You can contact the Justice Project on 011 717 4087
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Jeremy Gordin of the Wits Justice Project (WJP) of Wits Journalism wrote for Politicsweb.co.za: For Fusi Mofokeng and Tshokolo Joseph Mokoena, the question during the past two decades has not been whether there exists a light at the end of the tunnel – but whether there is a tunnel at all.
Nantie Steyn of the Wits Justice Project (WJP) of Wits Journalism wrote in Sowetan: A lack of proper police investigation made it impossible to convict robbery suspect Sechaba Mohlala. This was said by magistrate Robert Button who dismissed all charges against Mohlala in the Protea Magistrate’s court on Friday. After ten months in custody, Mohlala is finally a free man again.
Nantie Steyn of the Wits Justice Project (WJP) of Wits Journalism wrote in Sowetan of Sechaba Mohlala. An ordinary, unemployed man from Naledi, Soweto, this 26-year-old is trapped in a nightmare. Mohlala was arrested in May 2009 and has been in custody since then, not for murder, rape or hijacking. He has been awaiting trial for almost a year for allegedly stealing a firearm from a neighbour.
The Wits Justice Project met with US lawyer Barry Scheck on March 18. Scheck is a well-known defense lawyer who set up the Innocence Project in New York in 1992.
As a result of the work done by the Justice Project Patricia De Lille raised questions about the delays in justice at the South Gauteng High Court:
In an answer to a question for written response from ID President Patricia de Lille, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe has confirmed that a total of 281 cases in the South Gauteng High Court have been unable to go to appeal as a result of problems with transcripts.
Jeremy Gordin of the Wits Justice Project wrote the following articles, published in The Saturday Star and Sunday Independent:
In the Saturday Star of 6 February, Jeremy Gordin wrote about Farouk Meyer who has been convicted of murder but insists that justice has not been served.
In the Sunday Independent of 30 August, Jeremy Gordin wrote about the plight of Pedro Maboya, 35, who – were it not for a concerned employer and a committed attorney – would have been jailed for 6 months in Johannesburg’s notorious Diepkloof Prison for a crime he did not commit.
Masibulele Yaso and Jeremy Gordin of the Wits Justice Project wrote the following articles, published in The Sunday Independent:
In The Sunday Independent of 23 August, Karen Bosman, the girlfriend of an awaiting-trial prisoner Prince Molefe (reported on by Pauw) told the Justice Project what it was like being kept without trial inside prison for 10 years. Molefe’s friend, Serge Christiano, who was found not guilty and released after he spent eight years as an awaiting trial prisoner, said: “What happened to me and what’s still happening to Prince – this awaiting trial business – this is a travesty of justice.”
In The Sunday Independent on 16 August, Masibulele Yaso and Jeremy Gordin wrote that hundreds of prisoners, convicted of serious crimes including murder, could be freed due to bureaucratic bungling. The story deals with missing or inaccessible transcripts of trials. Prisoners whose transcripts cannot be found can ask the Constitutional Court to set aside their case because their right to appeal has been infringed. Appeals can be launched only if transcripts are available.
The Mail & Guardian published articles by Former Wits Justice Project Director Jacques Pauw, who looked into the cases of:
* Businessman Dries Human (53) who spent 14 years on charges that he masterminded a car theft syndicate. Last year magistrates granted Human a permanent stay of prosecution after it emerged that some of the evidence in his trial had disappeared from a safe in the court. Human is now suing the police for malicious – and wrongful – prosecution.
* Angolan refugee Serge Christiano. He warned magistrates in 2004 that he would harm himself if there were further delays to his case. He was ignored and slashed his body with a razorblade in court. Christiano spent years in prison on a charge of murder and rape. He was acquitted.