Slay belief that justice is for sale

Howls of protest have greeted the seemingly ridiculous sentence meted out to Marcel Nel for killing Sello Pete, 11, whom he claimed to have shot dead because he looked like the rabid dog he had been hunting.

Howls of protest have greeted the seemingly ridiculous sentence meted out to Marcel Nel for killing Sello Pete, 11, whom he claimed to have shot dead because he looked like the rabid dog he had been hunting.

Nel walked free after paying a R10000 fine.

The magistrate said the farmer's explanation was reasonable - a verdict rejected by the community.

Mainly black political parties as well as land and human rights groups have condemned the sentence. They say the fact that Nel is white and Pete was a poor black child had influenced the sentence.

But the prosecutor rejects the racism allegations and says the sentence is appropriate given the evidence.

We appeal for calm and respect for the rule of law. Let's hope the South African Human Rights Commission does take the matter on appeal. If so, it could lead to a higher court either confirming or rejecting the magistrate's decision.

Nevertheless, there is a growing perception in our country that the rich and powerful are never adequately punished for their misdeeds. Recent light sentences given to politicians and other public figures have given rise to the perception that justice can be bought in South Africa.

There is a growing chasm between the meting out of justice and the perception of justice expected by the public.

The two rarely meet and have led to a cynical perception that justice can be bought. This is a serious charge which the courts and the justice system have to take seriously.

The courts must either educate the public or go out of their way to explain in simple terms why sentences do not meet with the common man's expectations.

Disillusionment with the criminal justice system is reaching alarming proportions, fuelled by the exceedingly high crime rate in South Africa.

Already there are signs that communities are increasingly resorting to vigilantism and mob justice. If this continues, the state and its organs will lose all moral authority.

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