Reading the story of Zoleka Erasmus is like peering into a half-waking nightmare, the kind in which there’s just enough reality to make things truly scary.
It was 7.30am on August 29, 2007, and Erasmus, a teacher, was driving to school. Then she was stopped at a roadblock and instantly began to experience South Africa from another perspective: she was arrested, handcuffed to a man she did not know – to prevent her from “escaping”, according to the traffic cop who arrested her – driven to the police station and detained in a lock-up with several men arrested in the same roadblock and one other woman.
Perhaps because I read court decisions for a living I have developed a great appreciation for judgments that are clear and to the point. The most important thing is for the reader – any reader – to know, without doubt, what a judgment means.
In a recent lecture, Jeremy Gauntlett SC quoted an example from a decision by Albie Sachs, delivered during his time as a justice of the Constitutional Court.
When a police officer commits a crime, whether on or off duty, people feel worried. We want police to be exemplary; people we can look up to; good guys in our fight against the baddies. So how do you feel to discover that members of the police, convicted of serious crimes, routinely keep their jobs in the force?
This emerged from an appeal judgment delivered on Tuesday, dealing with the rape of a 13-year-old girl by a detective in 1998.
The award for Constitutional Dinosaur of the Decade goes to the Department of Home Affairs, a multi-repeat winner, and it follows this week’s judgment from the Supreme Court of Appeal in a case brought by two Somali refugees, Mahamad Abdi and Yusuf Dhiblawe.
FOR the past five years, South African consumers have been protected by laws designed to stop them getting too deeply into debt. No doubt legislators had in mind naive borrowers who genuinely overestimated their capacity to repay a loan or were bullied by sales staff with an eye to commission.
But since the law came into effect, courts have also seen more financially literate consumers trying to use this legislation to stop creditors taking action when they aren't paid what they are owed.