NADEL press release: Attack on Johannesburg advocate at Johannesburg High Court condemned as a threat to justice and the rule of law

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) condemns the attack on a Johannesburg Advocate at the Johannesburg High Court.

It was reported in the media that a female advocate was attacked by a mob of members of the political party Black First Land First (BLF). It was reported that the advocate was cornered and then beaten in an elevator including being punched in the face. She managed to escape her attackers when the elevator stopped. The mob then went to court looking for her.

We expect that this violent, criminal incident will be thoroughly investigated by the authorities. The perpetrators must face the full might of the law.

The courthouse and courtroom represents the ideals of justice, democracy and the rule of law especially in our constitutional dispensation. The attack on the advocate is therefore also an attack on the very principles of justice, democracy and the rule of law.
In a democracy the rule of law protects the rights of citizens, maintains order and limits the political exercise of power. The rule of law is critical for democracy rooted in equal rights and accountability to flourish. The rule of law is dispensed through our judiciary housed in our courthouses.

Threats and violence against lawyers, legal professionals and members of the judiciary also represent a significant threat to the rule of law. This attack cannot be viewed as a single incident or in a vacuum. There has been an increase in the number of violent incidents in our courts.

We are aware that the courtroom itself is a high risk area. Everyday our courts are visited by members of the public. Some members of the public may be extremely emotional and agitated. The stressors in a court can precipitate any violent act. Official court decisions are in themselves stressors, this could be the result of a sentence, a conviction or the custody of a child, the reasons are numerous. Therefore mob violence and lawlessness cannot be condoned as members of the public cannot be led to believe that violence will be tolerated or acceptable in the courthouse. Violence cannot be used against members of the profession and the judiciary so that perpetrators escape from the law and its consequences.

The administration of justice cannot be carried out by courts if members of the public are encouraged to bring anarchy and chaos upon the court. The administrators of justice are called upon to give maximum attention to the security facilities at our courts. The security arrangements must be beefed up where required. The administrators must ensure the safety of judges, practitioners, court personnel and witnesses. Such incidents may discourage people from using the courts to seek out justice.

NADEL also condemns the statements of the BLF President, Andile Mngxitama, the political leader of the BLF. His statement accepting and endorsing the violent actions of his members is rejected as dangerous and threatening.
It is further reported that the President of the BLF, Andile Mngxitama, claimed that the female advocate was attacked by women only. Violence against women can never be condoned especially during the period of sixteen days of no violence against women and children. Violence against women perpetrated by women is as atrocious as violence perpetuated by men against women. It is inexcusable and unacceptable.

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (NADEL), SOUTH AFRICA,
BY: The Office of NADEL National Secretariat,
National Executive Committee,
Nolitha Jali, (Secretary General)
071 689 3705