Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

No country for Afrikaans then?

Afriforum, the civil rights arm of Solidarity, has laid a charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice against a senior superintendent of the SAPS forensics laboratory in Pretoria. This genius has allegedly refused to receive evidence in over 50 cases because the covering letter was in Afrikaans.

Regardless of whether he likes it or not Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa and his refusal smacks of racism and bloody mindedness.

The cases concerned involve some serious charges including murder and rape which should be reason enough to deal with them as a matter of urgency. Instead we are being treated to yet another unacceptable reason why the crime rate in the country is so high.

Anyone who works regularly in our criminal courts would be aware of the delays involved in any matters where a forensic laboratory report is required. In drunken driving cases, for example, you are looking at a minimum six month’s delay. Then, far too often, we see police and laboratory staff failing to provide the documentation required to show the chain of evidence is in accordance with procedure. These are affidavits and documents to show inter alia that the evidence was not tampered with. As a result of this failure prosecutors are forced to withdraw the charges.

While I am aware of staff shortages and other valid reasons for these delays the conduct complained of by Afriforum has no place in the new South Africa.

What this officer appears to have overlooked is that it is not the Afrikaans community that will have to answer for this. Where the organs of state don’t function properly it is his superiors and the government who will be required to explain the basis thereof.

In addition, as a senior police officer he is setting the worst possible example to his junior officers and ranks. It justifies policemen and women refusing to do their job based upon personal prejudice. This comes at a time when the country is trying to tackle racism and xenophobia.

In a country with one of the worst crime rates on the planet this is wholly unacceptable. It is in the interest of all South Africans that crime be dealt with effectively and promptly. This type of conduct undermines all the good work being done by our police force.

Accordingly, unless this superintendent has a fantastic reason for refusing to take receipt of these matters, he should be suspended immediately pending an investigation. Subsequently at his hearing, should it transpire that he does not have a compelling reason for this conduct, he should be dismissed.

The country and the police deserve better.