the magistrate who plays the race card

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Magistrate Marius Serfontein seen entering the Meyerton magistrate's court. 09/12/2008. Sowetan. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo.
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Magistrate Marius Serfontein seen entering the Meyerton magistrate's court. 09/12/2008. Sowetan. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo.

Cecil Motsepe

Cecil Motsepe

A senior magistrate who treated a convicted criminal farmer with kid gloves is now in big trouble.

The National Prosecuting Authority wants Meyerton magistrate Marius Serfontein to be removed from hearing all cases of black people involved with white people.

This latest development adds to the probe by the Magistrate's Commission into Serfontein's relations with convicted criminal Derick James Steyn.

It has been claimed that Serfontein has been applying different judgments when dealing with backs and whites. Blacks apparently have been receiving harsher sentences while many whites escaped with suspended sentences when found guilty.

The NPA's move comes after Sowetan reported that Steyn was allegedly terrorising black people because of his friendship with Serfontein - the only magistrate in the Vaal town.

Steyn was recently charged with assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after his domestic worker, Thembi Ndlovu, accused him of assaulting her.

Ndlovu told Sowetan that her only crime was to quit the job.

Despite having three previous convictions for the same offence, Steyn, who is said to be a close associate of magistrate Marius Serfontein, was released without a formal bail hearing.

Sowetan revealed that the magistrate also owned a farm in the area and that Steyn had done some work for him.

This led to Ndlovu's lawyer, Godfrey Machimana, successfully moving an application for the case to be transferred to the Vereeniging magistrate's court.

Now the NPA is planing to revisit all cases dealt with by Serfontein.

NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali could not be reached for comment but the chief prosecutor, responsible for Serfontein's area of jurisdiction, Johan Venter, said: "All I can confirm is that I did issue an instruction to the effect that the magistrate must recuse himself from cases in which blacks are complainants and whites are the accused and vice versa."

Machimana said: "This is a clear indication that some white magistrates are still using the apartheid style when dealing with cases involving different races."

According to court records Steyn faced two cases of assault in 2000. He was convicted of one and acquitted on the other.

This was hardly two years after being found guilty in assault and reckless and negligent driving cases.

Meyerton police spokesman Constable Makgauta Serathi said the police "were aware" of the relationship between Steyn and the magistrate .

She said in 2005 they opened a case of defeating the ends of justice against the magistrate.

The NPA now Derick Steyn now wants to know what happened to this case.

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