The South Gauteng High Court

Today was the first day I stepped foot into high court. The Vuvuzela team was scheduled to spend the day at high court to gain experience of how magistrate court and high court differ. The different criminal and civil issues which are dealt with in the different courts and also just a general experience of courts are run.

The first experience

As I walked into the high court we were greeted by security that checked our bags and then a mass gathering of people and attorneys and advocates in the main area. Men and women in their black and white suits holding stacks and stacks of papers in their hands and also pulling an additional bag which I assume had more documents in them for their cases of the day.

The change at high court is that the advocates wear ropes and the attorneys are in suits, at magistrate court it is vice versa. Being around like 100 plus advocates throughout the day, I will admit is quite intimidating at first. There is an aura which surrounds them. They look very educated, very professional and very interested in getting the ball rolling. No one stood around aimlessly.

However, the personal experience I had with some of the advocates today was pleasant; looks can be deceiving because all of them were friendly, talkative and obliging to help.

The first courtroom

The first court room we entered was a motion court, where the advocates appear to the Judge to have their case taken off the roll for specific reasons, or get their case postponed or directed to the correct court. This is a quick and easy process which is done timelessly before lunch, so that afterwards the trials and other mores serious cases can take centre stage.

The judge for the motion court was a judge I will never forget. This judge was a lady and she went against every stereotype I have in my mind of judges. She was straight forward, experienced and efficient but above this she was a human. I think sometimes judges forget their human appeal in court and they treat it as a process rather than a space for interaction.

The judge was very talkative, she took the time to speak to the attorneys; she cracked jokes and kept the court room interested in the proceedings and when a time came when she had to correct something and teach someone she did so giving stories of her personal experience in this profession.
I remember there was a new attorney who was appearing for the second time in motion court and he was very nervous. The judge had a mini conversation with him and made him feel comfortable and told him that it does not get worse, this is the worst.

An awe-shaking experience in my midst

Later on in the day we saw prisoners with chains around their ankles waiting to appear in court for different reasons. I sat two people away from a prisoner of murder; it was scary to know that I was in the same room as a murderer, which I have never been in before.

Seeing the prisoners in general was a very real experience. They were approximately 7-10 prisoners who were accompanied with many correctional officers. I could not stop myself from staring and thinking about what story they have to tell, they all looked like people who had many life experiences to share, despite their crimes they were human beings and it interested me as to how different they were from me, yet the same.
I eventually sat through a trial between the state and a taxi driver, who is suing the state for R150, 000 in damages from the South African Police Services due to a collision of a taxi and police van which occurred in August 2010.

It’s always hard choosing the best information for your story when you have so much information about the case. Today I got all the relevant names I needed and spoke to all the right people and I definitely learned from my mistakes yesterday.

I can write off the day as an experience, a good one.

Justice Malala – The reality of journalism in South Africa

Justice Malala - with Teamvuvu 2013

Justice Malala – with Teamvuvu 2013

Writer, political analyst and journalist, Justice Malala gave Wits Vuvuzela an insight into his defined political views of South Africa.Malala as an established personality and journalist in the national and international media has much to divulge about politics and journalism.

The problem in South African journalism

“These South Africans are weird” said Malala. A fine way to start off his talk about South African politics. The problem with the country is when we face a low-point it is exaggerated to immense extents, which is not necessary, “In South Africa the world is always ending” he said.

Malala emphasised the need to think critically and logically when it comes to politics inSouth Africa. We as citizens should not make rash decisions based on emotional baggage which we carry through from apartheid.

It is problematic as to how we [as journalists] report on politics in this country. By living in South Africa we are afforded a free media environment where we [journalists] can report open and freely, with some limitations. “Countries which have a free press go places”, said Malala.

Malala said, “We need to think intensely about our future and the future of the media.” This is due to the fact that there is an endless amount of ways to reach news broadcasting apart from your television and newspapers. People do not have time to buy the paper sometimes and TV is slowly becoming redundant with the global advancements in technology and social networking.

Twitter the way forward…

Twitter is the way forward and sometimes “print articles posses less information than twitter can provide” said Malala. You can get a whole speech posted on your twitter timeline and be up-to-date with all current news just from following the right people and reading your twitter timeline.

When asked by a student what his views were about Agang, Malala said, “I think Mamphela Ramphele is a powerful and impressive woman […] however I don’t think she has done enough to build an organisation.” Looking at the history of political parties in South Africa, they all soon drop in ratings over the years with the exception of the Democratic Alliance (DA). None of them have yet to take over the African National Congress (ANC) as they are a “mean machine.”When asked about his opinion on the New Age newspaper Malala said, the New Age is not transparent as they do not allow “their circulation numbers to be monitored” and as a result “I do not know how they attract advertising.”