by Pamela Maringa

I am disappointed with the way the so-called high profile elites think they are above the law. Preferential treatment is reflecting badly on the South African Criminal Justice System. It is slowly losing its credibility.

I am sure that many share my sentiments. I’m tired of seeing high profile people getting away with crime because of their position in society. They do all sorts of criminal things and they are not held accountable. The money in their pockets, or their position, ensures that they get a free pass. Our president, Jacob Zuma, is one of these people.

Recently, the former Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Mduduzi Manana, appeared in court for sentencing. Manana has made headlines after he assaulted three ladies in a nightclub. Manana got away with only 500 hours of community service and a fine. This despite the fact that Manana has previous convictions. This incident happened in August – ‘Women’s Month’. One would have thought that the judge would have used Manana’s behaviour to send a strong message to a society where this kind of abuse is prevalent. It was a missed opportunity. Manana still remains a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and a Member of Parliament (MP).

This, I think, is an insult to victims and all women who have been abused in one way or another. It simply says: “I beat you up and here is a cheque for it”. What about the victim’s dignity and the trauma they had to endure? Does money cover that? I doubt it.

Other good examples of where ordinary people were let down by the law are when Duduzani Zuma killed two women. His car crashed into a taxi.  And no one has yet been arrested for the deaths of 141 psychiatric patients transferred from Life Esidimeni to institutions where they died, or, it seems were so badly neglected that they suffered and died. Another example of gross injustice is when Zimbabwe’s first lady assaulted a model, Gabriella Engels. She fled the country with no consequences for her actions – enabled by the South African government, the very people that are supposed to protect ordinary South Africans!

Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, is yet another example. He was arrested for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. He was sentenced to six years in prison. On appeal, he was given 13 years. There are rumours that he receives preferential treatment. He is another high profile person with money. Does money mean that the justice system goes ‘easy’ on you?

Innocent people continue to suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to look out for them and protect them. The South African Justice System has, over and over again, let ordinary citizens down. How have we got to this point? What has happened to “taking responsibilities for our actions”? Why is it easier to get away with wrongdoing when you are a public figure and have money?

I think that we should stand up and demand that the law is applied equally to everyone who breaks it. It’s evident that we need protection from the Zumas and the Mananas of this world. We need to feel safe. We need to know that if something happens to us we have the law on our side no matter who the perpetrator is. We cannot be sacrificed anymore.

In cases where the law is broken, justice shouldn’t be applied according to status. We should all be treated equally. Is that a vain hope?