Services at Potchefstroom Magistrates’ Court in the North West were temporarily suspended by the Ministry of Justice after the roof collapsed.
The victims are now at the end of their minds.
A legal representative in the area slammed the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development for allegedly failing to take action despite being warned about the potential dangers posed by faulty infrastructure.
While previous renovations to the building were temporarily halted by alleged extortionists, some say authorities were warned of the risk of continuing to use the allegedly dangerous premises.
“I myself wrote to the CEO’s office and we informed them about the problem with the infrastructure of this court, as well as the other problems we faced. The problem is that it affects the most vulnerable sections of the population because we have been without a civil district court for a long time. This court was repaired. At the same time, all domestic violence matters, maintenance matters, civil matters have had to be dealt with in the Children’s Court building or office, which is simply not acceptable,” Marlene Steyn du Toit of Steyn du Toit Attorneys.
Police say three men have been arrested and released on bail after allegedly trying to extort money from renovation contractors on at least two occasions.
“According to the information, the accused threatened and forced the contractor to leave Potchefstroom Magistrates’ Court, which he was appointed to repair in March 2020. Although construction work was delayed, it resumed in July 2022. It is alleged that members of the Provincial Organized Crime Unit received information on Wednesday 7 September 2022 that a group of unknown men forcibly entered the construction site and threatened workers with violence,” said North West Police Spokesperson, Brigadier General Sabata Mokwabone.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development says the building will remain temporarily closed while the extent of the damage is assessed.
“The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development can confirm that the Potchefstroom Magistrate’s office has been temporarily evacuated. The premises of the cash register, where the maintenance officials and the secretary of the civil court work, were affected by the roof collapse. There were no injuries, as the incident took place outside working hours. The Department of Public Works, as the custodian of the building, is currently assessing the extent of the damage and will refer the Department of Justice after that,” explains the Department’s Steve Malangu.
The Department says that further announcements on contingency plans will be made in due course following further engagement with stakeholders.