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article imageOp-Ed: Justice and injustice in post-Apartheid South Africa

By Alexander Baron     Mar 3, 2013 in Crime
When the South African Apartheid régime fell in 1994, the world wept for joy. Now it seems the black boss is the same as the white boss.
For those of a younger generation who don't recognise this quote, it looks like we have indeed been fooled again.
On March 21, 1960, South African police opened fire on a hostile crowd that numbered around twenty thousand. The final death toll was 69 with three times that number injured.
The Sharpville Massacre focused the hatred of not only the usual left wing suspects on South Africa but that of much of the world. Because the perpetrators were white and the victims were black, heck, it could only be racism. People who know their history might have recalled the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, in which 18 people were shot, hacked and trampled to death during a demonstration. Racism had nothing to do with that, nor with the massacre of 34 miners by police at Marikana in September last year. To add insult to injury, a number of the miners were themselves charged with murdering their workmates rather than the actual perpetrators being charged. Although these charges were soon dropped, it is doubtful if any police officer will stand in the dock to face murder charges. No one should be surprised, in South Africa as in the UK and most everywhere else, the best way to get away with murder is not to bury the body but to carry a warrant card. It does seem though that this kind of blanket immunity may not be absolute; last week, a taxi driver from Mozambique was handcuffed to the back of a police van and dragged along behind it. Later he was found dead in the cells, and this over a mere parking dispute. Now, unusually, eight police officers have been arrested and are facing murder charges.
Apart from this, the big news on the crime front in South Africa is the Oscar Pistorius case. While it would not be right to comment on this in depth, one has to ask if the white supremacy of Apartheid South Africa has been replaced with something else. The Pistorius bail hearing lasted four days. Has anyone ever heard of a bail hearing lasting anything like as long as this? Although bail is seldom granted on murder charges, it is by no means unprecedented, as in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case in the United States, another fatal shooting that occurred in a gated community.
It is though difficult for anyone to argue that Pistorius would have been granted bail had he not been such a big celebrity, because even if a jury accepts that he did not intend to kill Reeva Steenkamp, can it really be considered reasonable for a householder to shoot a burglar through a bathroom door without first giving some sort of verbal warning?
Perhaps just as remarkable as the Pistorius bail hearing is the fact that the detective assigned to the case is himself facing seven charges of attempted murder. These charges are related to him and two other police officers allegedly shooting at a minibus taxi to attempt to force it off the road, while apparently under the influence of alcohol. Whether or not these charges are justified, why is Botha still at work? He should have been suspended, or at the very least given a desk job where he does not interract with the public, for his own protection as much as anything else.
We all know different rules apply for police officers, but even in the wonderland that South Africa has become, it beggars belief that anyone could regard them as that different.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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