South Africa: When the Rich Buy Indemnity, Justice Is Denied


How much discretion does a prosecutor have to decline to prosecute? Is mediation always a good thing? Is there sometimes an obligation to prosecute? Does compensation for the victim trump societal criminal justice interests? These are vexing questions, especially when attempting to answer them in the abstract. A recent case may help in crystallising some thoughts.

The events in question unfolded as follows, as reported by News24, 22 December 2019: "Road rage accused cough up R5.4-million, case withdrawn - report". On 20 July 2019, Willem Potgieter and his wife Santie (both aged 57), were returning home after having supper at a restaurant in the Witbank area. At a traffic light where they stopped, they observed a Dodge Ram bakkie skipping a red light and Potgieter hooted at the vehicle. The Dodge bakkie subsequently followed them and pushed them off the road, damaging the vehicle.

Upon disembarking from his Toyota Hi-Lux, Potgieter reportedly fired a warning shot into the ground but was disarmed by the three men from the Dodge Ram bakkie (Hanno Bierman, 31, Pieter De Beer, 29, and Hannes Viljoen, 28). The three men then proceeded to assault Potgieter for some 45 minutes. When he eventually lost consciousness, they...

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