Justice system failing people of SA – like in the case of Nicoleen Swart

The justice system is failing the people of South Africa, and specifically women and children, badly.

If 100 women in this country is subjected to gender-based violence, less than ten will be convicted and spend time behind bars, because of extremely shoddy police work. And if the police does not let the people of South Africa down, the offenders can count on the justice system to be an ever present help in time of ‘need’.

On the 7th of June 2022, Jaco Swart was convicted of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm against his estranged wife, Nicoleen.

The Pretoria North Regional Court sentenced Swart to a R20 000 fine, as well as a three-year prison sentence, suspended for a period of five years.

Swart pleaded guilty to the two counts, which was clearly captured in CCTV surveillance footage. In the CCTV footage, there is clear evidence of Swart pushing, punching and kicking his wife at their business premises. It is further alleged that other abuse against his wife took place in front of the couple’s children.

The NPA’s prosecutor had meekly applied to have the surveillance footage admitted, to assist in the sentencing of the convicted Jaco Swart. Regrettably, the Court disallowed the presentation of the footage after the defence questioned its authenticity.

Allegedly and according to reports, the prosecutor failed to challenge the defence in this regard. The prosecutor failed to call the complainant to testify, as well as a video expert witness (both of whom were available and willing to testify in aggravation of sentence). If this is true, it points to a case of professional negligence on the part of the prosecutor, at best.

This sentence is an insult to women in South Africa who are subjected to gender-based violence on a daily basis.

From January to March 2022, 898 women were the victims of femicide and more than 10800 women were raped in South Africa.

It is time that NGOs write to the director of public prosecution, as well as to the director of public prosecutions for the Gauteng division to demand that the NPA appeal the inadequate sentence in this case and calls for a thorough investigation into the prosecutor’s conduct.

As an NGO, we at 1000 Women trust, aim to raise awareness around gender-based violence, rape and abuse and mobilise resources to assist women-led organisations with grants and skill development.

We consider the poor handling of the case of Jaco Swart as a prime example of how the SA justice system is simply indirectly contributing to the high incidence of gender-based violence in this country.