Court records lost in Thaba -Tseka blaze

Court records lost in Thaba -Tseka blaze

THABA-TSEKA – NOT a single case file survived the fire that razed the Thaba-Tseka Magistrate Court to the ground and left damage estimated at over M600 000, thepost has learnt.

The fire broke out last Friday night after a security guard allegedly entered, while holding a burning candle, one of the offices at the court building unaware that a gas tank in the room was leaking.

The gas tank then reportedly burst into flames, burning down all but one of the 10 rooms at the court building and leaving the night watchman seriously injured.

There is no electricity at the Thaba-Tseka court which has to rely on candles, paraffin lamps and gas for its lighting and heat needs.
The records lost in the blaze included closed and current case files as well as court transcripts from as far back as four decades ago.
Magistracy spokesperson ’Mampota Phakoe said the fire incident had left the court facing a massive crisis.
“Important documents have been burnt to ashes,” she lamented.

“This means that no information is traceable about the cases heard by the Thaba-Tseka central and local courts.”
She added: “Nobody can produce the court’s evidence that A was supposed to pay B because B lost a case.
“No file survived the fire except a few that were in the clerk’s cabinet.

“No cash receipts survived the fire, meaning we will not know who has paid a fine or not and for what offence.”
Phakoe said even those who had been found guilty by the courts could now go scot-free because “there is no evidence that they ever appeared before the court”.

She blamed the accident on the lack of support for the judiciary, saying “many of our courts do not have electricity and our guards have to use candles”.

“There was no electricity at the Thaba-Tseka court because the budget was not passed,” the spokesperson said.
“The officials there are forced to depend on gas heaters to warm the courts.”

Last year around the same time, the Sefikeng Local Court was also burnt to ashes in a fire sparked by a leaking gas heater.
“It was so sad because the building in Sefikeng was also used as a home for the court president and all his belongings were burnt,” Phakoe said.

“The state of our central and local courts countrywide is pathetic and we seriously need help.”

Majara Molupe

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