General: Magistrate's Court shutdown hits child victims

The Protea Magistrate’s Court in Soweto has been shut down until further notice due to a water crisis, notes a TimesLIVE report. ‘The suspension is occasioned by problems of water supply due to damaged and ageing piping infrastructure,’ said the Justice Department. All matters that were scheduled at the court will be postponed, while members of the public who are supposed to appear before the court are advised to visit the court to secure new appearance dates. Justice services will, in the interim, be offered at Lenasia, Kliptown, Orlando, and Meadowlands Magistrate’s Courts.

The shutdown is causing secondary trauma for families and child victims, says Dr Shaheda Omar, clinical director of the Teddy Bear Clinic. 'The wellbeing of the children and their families has been affected as a result of it. It is also the failure to provide therapy timeously to the children. This subjects them to further trauma because of their anxieties, their fears, and whatever emotions they are struggling to cope with, with not being addressed timeously and appropriately,' said Omar, according to TimesLIVE.

'Today our staff were not allowed on the premises because they are busy, I think, trying to establish the problem and address it,' said Omar. 'But the implication of that is that children booked today for any psychosocial support had to be turned away.' Omar said the bana pele (children first) and batho pele (people first) concepts needed to be applied and alternative arrangements made. 'We cannot wait and say, "until further notice". There needs to be contingency plans. There needs to be backup plans to ensure that people are served and that justice is served because justice delayed is justice denied. People out there – children, clients – continue to suffer because it's prolonged,' she said.

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