AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit has scored another victory in that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had made a turnabout and decided to institute prosecution against Gerald Hattingh, a magistrate in the Bellville area, on a charge of negligent driving.
This comes after Verna Cloete was hit by Hattingh way back in 2011. For an unexplained reason, the NPA decided not to prosecute the magistrate in direct conflict with the available evidence. Following the decision by AfriForum’s private prosecution unit in 2019 to become involved on behalf of Cloete, the NPA made a turnabout and decided to indeed institute prosecution. Cloete will be testifying against Hattingh in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on 21 October.
Based on communications from the NPA, the Private Prosecution Unit ascertained that because the suspect was a magistrate, the case had been referred to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who made the initial decision not to prosecute.
This case has also been hampered by the usual problems of inadequate feedback to the complainant and a lost docket. According to the Private Prosecution Unit, it is a growing trend that complainants do not receive feedback from the police or prosecutors, and in this case as well, there was no feedback. “It is astonishing that, as happened in this case, dockets are still getting lost in spite of technological aids to counter this. The irony is that the Private Prosecution Unit was able to make a copy of the case docket, received from the complainant, available to the NPA,” says Adv. Phyllis Vorster, Prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.
AfriForum welcomes the eventual prosecution of Hattingh. “However, it is a pity that the case had to be delayed for almost a decade for the NPA to perform its constitutional duty. Cases such as this confirm why an institution such as the Private Prosecution Unit is essential to ensure, inter alia, that justice be done by exerting the necessary pressure on the NPA to prosecute cases that have merit.”