Members of legal fraternity fearing for their lives
Share this article:
Cape Town - The Department of Justice said all safety protocols are in place to protect legal counsel while covering high-profile cases.
Members from the legal fraternity have told Weekend Argus that they are fearing for their lives, not knowing whether they would live to see their families.
On Sunday, Magistrate AC Mashala, who is presiding over the case of alleged underworld figure Nafiz Modack, was wounded in the buttocks during a shooting, at a car wash in Mfuleni.
This is not the first time that legal staff, presiding over high-profile cases, have been shot, with some even killed.
There are the murder cases of advocate Noorudien Hassan, advocate Pete Mihalik, advocate Vernon Jantjies, former Magistrate Sithemebele Elvis Tebe, and the attempted murder of advocate William Booth.
Recently, a senior police officer, Lieutenant Colonel Koliswa Vani, who was stationed at Delft Police Station was killed, and her three-year-old grandchild, and two other males, were wounded, after three armed men approached her, opened fire, and fled in a Toyota Avanza.
This week, Steve Mahlangu from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development said security for Mashala would be beefed up.
He said: “The Department can confirm this unfortunate and disturbing incident, in which Magistrate Mashala was the subject of a shooting in Mfuleni.
“It is confirmed that his injuries were not serious and the matter is receiving urgent attention from the police.
“The heightening of security around the magistrate is also currently being attended to,” said Mahlangu.
Mashala had been shot during his private time and had presided over Modack’s case for the very first time, just two days before the shooting on May 16.
Mahlangu has indicated that security detail, where high-profile cases were concerned, had intense security measures, with the assistance of the SAPS.
“In high-profile cases, the NPA (prosecutor) will alert the court manager and SAPS for additional security for that matter, in advance to the matter being heard in the court. SAPS will allocate more officials and court managers will request for additional officials to be allocated for the matter.
“Arrangements are generally made well in advance for existing matters.
“In the event that a particular official has received a threat, an assessment will be done by SAPS to allocate a permanent security to said official,” said Mahlangu.
A senior advocate, who cannot be identified, said he feared for his life while covering high-profile gang cases.
“I feel disappointed since you are only doing your work but now, each day, you need to wonder will you see your family after work again, who are still dependent on you – but one cannot allow criminals to rule our society.”
Booth did not want to comment when approached by Weekend Argus and had promised feedback.
“We acknowledge receipt of your email and note the contents thereof. We will revert to you shortly in this regard.”
Five legal officers have either been shot and wounded, or killed, in Cape Town in the past five years, and some cases have not been solved.
Sithembele Elvis Tebe, 49, who was a former magistrate at the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court, was sentenced in 2004 for shooting a motorist to death, and Tebe was killed in his driveway, in Kuils River, during an apparent hijacking last year.
Advocate Pete Mihalik was shot and killed in October 2018, while dropping his children off in Green Point. His child and girlfriend were also wounded during the shooting. Sizwe Biyela, Nkosinathi Khumalo and Vuyile Maliti, are currently carrying out pre-trial conditions at the Cape High Court.
During an interview with the media last year, Maliti’s lawyer Jannie Kruger said he had received threatening calls to stop representing his client.
In December 2019, advocate Jantjies, who had also presided as a magistrate at the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court, was shot and killed outside a garage in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain. He had been the legal representative of Glenda Bird, who is also now deceased. Bird is the sister of alleged drug kingpin Fadwaan “Vet” Murphy, who is currently on trial at the Cape High Court, with other co-accused, facing over 200 charges. Jantjies’ case has still not been solved.
Advocate William Booth survived a hit on his life last year in April, after gunmen opened fire on him, outside his home in Higgovale, in Cape Town. Last month, the persons behind the shooting were convicted and sentenced.
Advocate Hassan, who had represented alleged high-flyers such as Ralph Stanfield, was murdered in front of his home, in Lansdowne, in November 2016, while sitting in his car. The case was never solved.
Police spokesperson Colonel André Traut said cops have yet to make an arrest and did not respond to the query regarding Jantjies’ case.
“On November 7, 2016, Noorudien Hassan, 45, was shot and fatally wounded in front of his house, in Burwood Road, Crawford.
“It is alleged that a white Colt double cab LDV, with male occupants, fired several shots at the victim and fled the scene. The case is still under investigation and arrests are yet to be made.” said Traut.
Anyone with information is kindly requested to contact Lansdowne detectives on 021 700 9000 and 082 576 2804, or Crime Stop on 08600 10111