Judicial officers are tasked with a heavy responsibility of ensuring that laws are properly interpreted and Justice is delivered fairly and on time.
They have to weigh the interests of society, against the interests of the victim and the interests of the accused person before coming to any conclusion. All this should be conducted in a transparent manner in the presence of all stakeholders; particularly the public who should have confidence in the system.
On Tuesday, Broadhurst magistrate Ginnai Jensen kicked everybody out of her court room when Mmutlenyane Ramogaladi appeared for mention for a rape charge. The accused rose to fame when an illegally recorded video of him telling the magistrate to go to hell or “o tla imentioner” went viral on social media. In the video, he vowed not to come for the next mention since he would be going to see a doctor.
It is the duty of the court to have ordered an investigation into who was behind the secretly shot video and appropriate action taken against the culprit. As journalists, and law enforcement agents, we are aware of court procedures that prescribe amongst others, for us not to take pictures or videos of court procedures.
It was therefore irresponsible for the magistrate to kick everybody out of her court on grounds that a video of an accused person was broadcast on social media. Judicial officers, including magistrates should not behave like demi Gods who are not affected by changes
Social media is here to stay and it affects everybody. Some people use the platform for ‘unsocial’ purposes whilst others use it to discredit other people.
As a matter of fact, there are people who are not aware of court procedures, including the fact that they are not allowed to conduct any form of recording of court proceedings. It is against this backdrop that court officers should read out these procedures at the commencement of every court proceedings and issue a warning that action will be taken against those who breach the procedures.
Judicial officers are trained professionals who should not allow emotions to cloud their judgement. For many years, the Judiciary has maintained practices that boosted public confidence that the justice system is transparent and headed by professionals, but lately that confidence is fading away. One of the contributing factors for the fading confidence is pompous and arrogant judicial officers who think that the hierarchy of nature places them in the same category as God. The magistrate overreacted to a minor incident that comes with the territory.
This kind of behaviour should be condemned in strongest possible words.
“The proper role of the judiciary is one of interpreting and applying the law, not making it.”
– Sandra Day O’Connor