Johannesburg - The Johannesburg Bar Council has condemned a “vicious racial attack” on one of its members at the High Court in Joburg, claiming the court’s security team is “wholly inadequate”.
According to bar council chairperson Kameshni Pillay, a female advocate was attacked at the court on Wednesday by members of Black First Land First (BLF), who were staging a protest outside.
Pillay said the advocate was apparently part of an argument with a security guard, and the BLF became involved, threatening and shouting at her. When the woman subsequently went inside the courthouse, the BLF members followed her into a lift, where the group of men and women began punching her in the face, telling her that “white blood would be spilt”. It was only when the elevator opened that she was pulled out and able to escape, though the group of BLF members began venturing into the various courtrooms trying to find her. The advocate ultimately had to be “smuggled” out of the building, according to Pillay.
In a statement from the bar council, Pillay said the organisation condemned the attack in the strongest terms, and would be working with the police to identify the attackers and bring them to justice.
“At a systemic level, it is of immense concern that the attack occurred within the court building and that the security arrangements in place appear to be wholly inadequate. The attack is also a part of a growing pattern of criminal activity perpetrated in and around the court precinct which has seen practitioners and judges being mugged and robbed,” the statement read.
BLF president Andile Mngxitama said his members had reported that the woman involved was a “racist” who was “trying to throw her weight around”. He said that racial comments were allegedly made in the elevator, and that only women were involved in the physical attack. While the council has denied this, saying that men and women were involved in the attack, Mngxitama said he encouraged his members to deal with racists, even if it meant becoming physical.
Regarding the claims that security at the court was insufficient, the Department of Justice was unable to respond to queries from the Saturday Star yesterday afternoon.