Monday, July 14, 2008

Randburg Court 22 -- Domestic Violence

Jen and I spent the entire morning in this courtroom. We were there to finalize a restraining order against her wifebeating ex-husband...

The magistrate arrives in court at 10am. The paperwork instructed us to be there at 8.30am.

The first case is instantly dismissed. Jennifer's is the second on the roster. The first words out of His Worship's lips are, 'Where is your return of service?'

Turns out that the Wierdabrug Police hadn't actually served the interim protection order on the prick. So he's out and about, still in possession of the gun he threatened Jennifer and her family with.

This lack of 'return of service' makes it necessary for us to get copies of the interim order, to get it served.

We stand in a queue at the office of the Clerk of the Court. When we get to the front, the lady says, 'I'd love to help you, but our photocopying machine has run out of paper.'

Jen looks dejected, so the lady says, 'Come with me.'

So we hop into the elevator with her. Down to the ground floor. (Her office is only one floor up, the top floor of the building. It takes longer to walk to the elevator than it would to go up and down the stairs.) But hey. She's making things happen for us. So no complaints, really.

We get to an office with a huge behemoth of a modern photocopier in it. You know that type... touchscreen, automatic stapling collator, eight different paper trays. This thing might be capable of printing books-on-demand for all I know. 'We've run out of paper upstairs,' says the lady. 'Can I have a few sheets of yours?'

'No,' says the sullen woman in the office. She's got a friend visiting her. They're both sitting huddled over a small fan-heater in the middle of the room. There are TWO other heaters blasting furnace-juice into the ether. 'This machine is broken. No paper.'

I say, 'No paper? Nothing at all? Not even a sheet? We just need a few sheets, and we'll take them upstairs and copy there.'

The woman whose office we've invaded scowls at me. 'Broken!' she says, and the conversation's over.

We follow our friendly lady to another room. And another. She knocks on doors. Noone's there. This is THE court for civil matters in Gauteng, as far as I've been led to believe. And yet nobody appears to be at work. She knocks on another door. And another. Nothing. Finally, a door with someone willing to answer. A woman smoking a cigarette in a no-smoking building. She hands our gal several sheets of overlarge A3 paper, and suggests we cut it down to size to fit in the photocopier. And takes a call. She's the switchboard operator. 'No, I don't have her private cellphone number. We're not allowed to have that.' Pause. 'No, she doesn't have a work cellphone number.' Pause. 'No, I don't work with her. I don't even know who she is. Sorry. Can't help.'

Knock knock. No reply. But the door swings open. We're opposite a room tagged ''Probation Office'. There are 12 chairs, a table, and a microwave oven. On the microwave oven is a booklet: 'Muslim Studies By Mail'. We're looking into the probation office. While our gal sneaks into the empty office. She comes out triumphant, clutching a handful of A4 paper.

We follow her back to the broken photocopier with the heater-huddlers. She doesn't knock this time. Doesn't ask if she can use the photocopier or paper or anything. Instead, she unplugs one of the three heaters, and plugs the copier in. The woman whose office we're invading just glares at her.

The copier warms up. It's a million rand machine. It takes time to warm up. Finally, it kachungs into action, and spews out copies of Jennifer's Protection Order and Summons against the wife-beater. Our gal staples the copies. Thumbs off a small wad of paper that she pilfered from the empty office. Says, 'Replacement paper.' Slams it down on the woman's desk. Strides out.

Jen follows her. I stay behind to see what will happen. The office-icicle slothfully follows the cord of the heater with her hand. Unplugs the live photocopier which instantly dies. Puts her third heater back on.

And Jen and I head out into the wide blue yonder to make sure that order gets served the second time round.

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  1. Ah, the wheels of justic turning ...

  2. Hey dude...

    Is this TYPICAL for the wheels of justice? Or is the Randburg Court just having a bad month/year/decade? Dude... based on what we saw and experienced yesterday, this country's infrastructure would appear to be rather strained. Rather OVERstrained. Perhaps strained to the point of collapse?

    I'm sensing that there's a lot of papering over cracks so that we seem ready for 2010. But my optimism has long ago been dashed. I suspect that 2010 will see the full and final settlement of all that's broken here.

    Blue skies


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