A South African magistrate has bee castigated by two other Judges for the remarks on Zimbabweans that she made while sentencing a Zimbabwean national, Fortune Dube, for 15 years on theft charges. Dube, who was convicted of stealing a truck and groceries from a super market chain to supermarket, turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to appeal the sentence inflicted on him.
Acting Judge N Nkosi said the common law’s right of each accused to a fair trial must be respected citing that if there was any bias that might have been suspected on the verdict, then the convict has a right of appeal.
The South African magistrate reportedly said, “You are the third Zimbabwean I see today, and it is forever housebreaking and theft. And I understand why. It is because maybe in your country circumstances are dire – there is no economy left. And now people seem to steal in this country. Before too long, we would be like Zimbabwe; there will be no economy.” Judge Nkosi thus said that “The magistrate had no right to have uttered these words. She generalized about Zimbabweans.
That statement may well be understood in certain quarters to be promoting xenophobia. It was unnecessary to have made such remarks.” The judge noted that as if this was not enough, the magistrate further made a note to the prison authorities: “Please note, accused is a Zimbabwean national and when paroled must be handed to the Department of Immigration.”
Judge Nkosi said there was no legal or factual basis for the magistrate to make this order, as it was not her duty to deal with immigration issues. “There is a government department that is empowered to deal with such issues. That order is unconstitutional and must be set aside,” he added. It emerged that Dube was legally in the country.
The judge further found that the said South African magistrate was too harsh on Dube in sending him to prison for 15 years, as there were mitigating factors such as that he was taking care of eight children of which the magistrate commented that “every criminal has children”. Judge Nkosi has reduced the sentence to 10 years.