Johannesburg - Ranting real estate agent Vicki Momberg’s upcoming appeal proceedings could be futile, and may actually assist the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in securing harsher sentences against other convicted racists.
Momberg was sentenced earlier this year to an effective two years in prison for using the k-word 48 times against the officers and 10111 operators trying to help her after a smash-and-grab in 2016.
Convicted on four counts of crimen injuria, she became the first person in South Africa to be given prison time for such charges.
While the Randburg Magistrate’s Court initially denied Momberg leave to appeal, on Monday Momberg managed to secure a high court ruling overturning this decision, allowing her to appeal against her conviction and sentence.
Throughout Momberg’s criminal trial she claimed that after the smash-and-grab incident, she was so flustered and traumatised that she was not aware of her behaviour, unable to understand the consequences of what she was doing.
This defence, known legally as “sane automatism”, has rarely worked in the South African courts, with legal experts previously explaining to The Saturday Star that only one court had handed a not-guilty verdict to an accused using this defence in the past 15 years.
However, it appears to have assisted Momberg in securing an appeal.
The Saturday Star understands that Momberg argued to the high court that the lower court had failed to properly scrutinise her sane automatism defence, that the video evidence of her shouting at the officers had been tampered with, and that her own expert witness had been all but ignored.
Meanwhile, she has argued that the sentence was excessive in relation to the crime.
However, the NPA will oppose Momberg’s appeal, and according to a senior source at the authority, if the high court sides with the prosecution, it will officially place Momberg’s case as a precedent.
This means that it could be used by prosecutors to secure easier convictions and harsher sentences for crimen injuria.
While no date for the appeal has been set, on Thursday Momberg succeeded in her bail application.
Appearing before Pravina Rughoonandan, the same magistrate who initially convicted, sentenced and denied her leave to appeal, Momberg asked that she be released from prison until the appeal was finalised.
Prosecutor Yusuf Baba told the court he did not oppose the bail application as Momberg had already served much of her sentence, and would already be considered for parole in the next month or so.
However, before the bail proceedings could continue, Momberg’s lawyer, Kingdom Onah, told the court he was shocked that his client had been brought into the courtroom with leg shackles.
He claimed that throughout her time in prison, Momberg had “been subjected to inhumane treatment” and that the Correctional Services Department had waited three days to inform Momberg that her high court leave to appeal application had been successful.
After the shackles were removed, Onah hinted that he was set to launch another application against Correctional Services, though he did not continue once the bail application was finalised.