Two recent statements by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson are indicative of the precarious state of our criminal justice system. In response to the farmworker strikes this week, Minister Joemat-Pettersson said that she would "ensure that no farmworker will face criminal or disciplinary sanctions". She then went further and said that "we will speak to the NPA and the Police Minister to ensure that all cases of intimidation and public violence are withdrawn".
These statements imply that Minister Joemat-Pettersson is confident that she, or people to whom she has access, has control over the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the police, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Labour Courts.
The Minister's statements are further proof of the DA's contention that the ANC and its leaders are not committed to complying with the Constitution and to protect the independence and integrity of institutions such as the NPA and the courts.
What message is this sending to people who have suffered from the violence? Quite clearly, people who lay charges with the police can now have no legitimate expectation of having their charges investigated by the police, or if they are, the charges will not be proceeded with in court.
What right does Minister Joemat-Pettersson have to interfere in charges laid by private individuals?
The public must be made aware of the implications of Minister Joemat-Pettersson's interference in this matter. The rule of law and an independent justice system are critical to avoid abuse of power in a country. If the dominant faction of the governing party has control over who has the right to justice and who does not, it is not only a flagrant violation of the Constitution, but it puts each and every one of us in danger. If the governing party is the final arbiter on whether we are charged with crimes, or whether crimes that are committed against us are investigated or not, we are all vulnerable to the arbitrary abuse of power.
The DA will take the following action:
I will write to Minister Joemat-Pettersson asking her on what basis she feels that she can apply selective justice, and interfere in the police and prosecuting authority, and whether she will continue to act in accordance with that promise she reportedly made.
I will pose Parliamentary questions to the Ministers of Police and Justice regarding the details of charges laid at the police stations in the areas where the recent violence has erupted, and which of those charges, if any, have been referred to the NPA for prosecution. I will also ask follow-up questions to ascertain which cases, if any, have not been investigated, and which cases, if any, have been withdrawn by the NPA.
I call on any member of the public who has laid charges at any police station relevant specifically to the violence on farms in the last week, to send copies of any statements and evidence they have given to the police, to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 086 694 2286. In this way, we can ensure oversight that evidence does not get 'lost', and we will be in a better position to assess if charges are dropped without good reason.
The DA will not stand by while the ANC erodes the carefully constituted branches of state in order that they may abuse their power at will. It is clear that South Africa needs a new government, and quickly.
The DA will not support a return to apartheid-era policing and 'justice'.