National Press Club

Plight of South Africans Behind Bars Discussed at Newsmaker

May 22, 2014 | By Jennifer Ejim |

Thousands of innocent South Africans have spent time in prison waiting for their trials, said the project coordinator of Wits Justice Project, Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, at a May 21 Newsmaker.

The Wits Justice Project “looks to find stories of people who do not get the kind of press that Oscar Pistorius gets,” Erfani-Ghadimi said. She drew a parallel between the attention on the case of Oscar Pistorius, a paraplegic accused of murdering his girlfriend, and the lack of attention given to Ronnie Fakude, also a paraplegic who was only recently granted bail after 28 months awaiting trial on fraud charges.

“The good news about Ronnie is that he is out of jail through the intervention of our journalist, who happened to be sitting at his bail hearing and raised her hand to suggest that he should be out on an electronic tagging system,” Erfani-Ghadimi said. “The judge did not know that such a thing existed.''

Erfani-Ghadimi said people know of theSouth African criminal justice system through the Pistorius trial, ``but the people who really need the exposure are people like Ronnie, who have no voice or a group of very well paid lawyers and forensic specialists – the ones who are caught up in the system.''

She said Victor Nkomo has been incarcerated for eight years, waiting to be tried on charges suounding a casino robbery. “It is clearly unconstitutional that he has been there for so long,'' Erfani-Ghadimi said.