Fight is on to relaunch community courts in PE

Mvuyo Mati

Mvuyo Mati

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions is fighting to relaunch community courts to crack down on rampant crime and prostitution in Port Elizabeth.

"We want to target the city centre where there's a lot of drug trafficking and prostitution.

"We want to clean up that area," said deputy director of public prosecutions in Eastern Cape, Johan Bezuidenhout, while speaking to Sowetan yesterday.

He complained that the justice department had stopped the community court pilot project, despite its resounding success.

Bezuidenhout argued that these courts had served as a deterrent to would-be offenders.

He said the project, introduced in 2003, started "fairly well" in Mdantsane, East London, but the department could not provide proper infrastructure.

It also could not approve full time magistrates and interpreters to deal with cases brought before community courts.

Bezuidenhout said the courts were meant to provide quick justice for petty crime such as shoplifting, public drinking, bag snatching, breaking into vehicles, drunkenness, dealing and smoking dagga and urinating in public.

After a relatively slow start, mainly due to the process of establishing communication with police, the courts began to deliver the intended services.

He said that crime had plummeted to zero levels after the introduction of community courts in Mdantsane.

"If we can root out petty crime, robbers, rapists and murderers will go away," said Bezuidenhout.

In order to eradicate crime, he said prosectuors and police should pool their resources.

"There is no doubt it worked and was a very successful pilot project," said Bezuidenhout.

He said the directorate had been negotiating with Nelson Mandela Bay municipality to find venues where community courts could be re-established.

"We were hoping to start on April 1, but negotiations are still going on," he said.