This post is part of a series about Africa’s positive stories. Last week, 2 major events happened in South Africa that put a positive spotlight on the country’s legal system: (a) continuation of the Oscar Pistorius trial that started at beginning of March and is scheduled to run until early May; and (b) announcement of the Public Protector’s long-awaited report on Nkandla on March 19th. While both events hogged Twitter’s headlines in South Africa, and the world has been glued to the #OScarTrial on international tv channels for days; there are key points worth noting about existence of the rule of law in Mzansi.
The Oscar Trial
Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial about alleged premeditated murder of his girlfriend – Reeva Steenkamp – on the morning of Valentine’s Day in 2013 has exposed South Africa’s legal court proceedings to the world for scrutiny, thanks to the paralympian’s global recognition and the court’s go-ahead for the media to repot this case real-time. [separator type=’transparent’ normal_full_width=” pattern_full_width=” color=” thickness=” up=’15’ down=’15’]
Click here to read about a betting ad based on the #OscarTrial by Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker, which has become the most complained about in the UK ever with 5,525 registered complaints
Our assessment of media’s reaction to the proceedings thus far is that the presiding female judge Thokozile Masipa is conducting the case in the most judicially professional manner, and this has not been overshadowed by the apparent shoddy police work in collecting evidence on the crime scene, coupled with the less than desirable court interpretation services that got the ire of the country’s Chief Justice Mogeng Mogoeng. Arguably the biggest beneficiary from this case has been Oscar’s defence lawyer Barry Roux, who’s famous statement – “I put it to you” trended on Twitter at the beginning of last week.
The Nkandla Report
Ms Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s Public Protector, finally delivered the highly anticipated damning report about government’s mishandling of public funds relating to development of Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, whose costs reportedly skyrocketed from the original budgeted of R23 million in 2009 to current R246 million. The more than 60 000 tweet mentions about this 450-page report are an indication that the Public Protector did not disappoint. With national elections less than 2 months away, #NkandlaGate may become an albatross around the neck of the ruling party – the ANC, if the current jostling by the opposition parties “to make hay while the sun shines” is anything to go by.
The Positive African Story
The common thread from the 2 events above is the robust rule of law that exists in South Africa. If this was not the case, Oscar Pistorius would have used his internationally recognised Paralympian status and his fortune to make the case go away and avoid having his “open” day in court. In the same breadth, President Zuma would have used the state’s apparatus to squash Thuli’s investigation even before it started 2 years ago, and this is not saying that attempts were not made by some powers along the way, according to the Public Protector. The next high profile case – another milestone for South Africa’s rule of law – that is about to start is the Shrien Dewani murder trial, the prelude of which was fought in the British courts where the accused made an unsuccessful attempt to thwart the extradition treaty between South Africa and Britain. Should South Africans sleep easy? Well, VIGILANCE is the word.