Magistrate’s xenophobia mars sentencing

A magistrate made xenophobic comments while sentencing a foreign minor in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court today.

“You people are abusing the hospitality of this country and that’s why you come here to steal. I can assure you, you wouldn’t have done the same if you were in Mozambique,” said Magistrate Jabulani Skhosana.

Skhosana made this remark when he was sentencing Martinas Johannes, a Mozambican national, who was arrested on April 16 for stealing a R30 t-shirt at Jet Mart in the Johannesburg CBD.

He was also charged for being in South Africa illegally.

Thandeka Kiti, a legal intern at the Wits Justice Project, said two weeks ago she was in court when Skhosana was dealing with a case where a female Zimbabwean national, was arrested for stealing a coat.

Kiti said one of the personal reasons given to the magistrate for a lighter sentence, was that the woman had a 4-month old baby who she needed to take care of and therefore could not be in jail.

 Kiti said to this Skhosana responded: “You Zimbabwean women come to court with babies looking for sympathy from the court.”

Johannes, who was a first time offender, was held in custody for 37 days before he appeared in court today.

When asked how old he was, Johannes said he was 17 years old.

Skhosana said this was not true as Johannes had been tested at the Hillbrow Community Clinic and it was determined that he was between the ages of 18 and 19.

It was unclear how his age was tested as this was not explained by Skhosana or the attorneys.

Johannes would therefore not be tried as a minor, Skhosana said.

When Skhosana announced that he was sentencing Johannes to a fine of R3000 or 18 month in jail there were comments and murmurs from the gallery.

The gallery settled when Skhosana proceeded to say the sentence was wholly suspended for five years.

Skhosana reminded Johannes that if he committed another crime within those five years his sentence would be harsh as at that point he would be a man of older than 17.

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