Services at Potchefstroom Magistrate’s Court halted following roof collapse

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Services at the Potchefstroom Magistrate’s Court in the North West have been temporarily halted by the Department of Justice, following the collapse of the roof.

Those affected are now at their wit’s end.

A legal representative in the area lambasted the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for allegedly failing to take action, despite prior warning of the potential dangers posed by structurally defective infrastructure.

While earlier renovations to the building were temporarily disrupted by alleged extortionists, some say authorities were warned about the risks of continuing to use the alleged unsafe premises.

“I myself wrote to the office of the Director-General and we made them aware of the problem with the infrastructure of this court as well as other problems we were experiencing. The problem is that the most vulnerable people are affected by this because we’ve been sitting without a civil district court for a long while. They’ve been repairing this court. In the meantime all the domestic violence matters, the maintenance matters, the civil matters had to share the building or the office of the Children’s Court which is just not acceptable”, Marlene Steyn du Toit from Steyn du Toit Attorneys.

Police say three men were arrested and released on bail after allegedly attempting to extort money from the renovation contractors on at least two separate occasions.

“According to information, the accused threatened and forced the contractor to leave Potchefstroom Magistrate’s Court which he was appointed to renovate in March 2020. Although the construction work delayed it resumed in July 2022. Allegedly members of the provincial organised crime unit received information on Wednesday 07 September 2022 that the group of unknown males forcefully entered the construction site and threatened the employees with violence,” North West Police Spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone says.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development says the building will remain temporarily closed while the extent of damage is being assessed.

“The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development can confirm that the Potchefstroom Magistrate’s office has been temporarily evacuated. The collapsed roof affected the cash hall offices used by officials who deal with maintenance and the clerk of the civil court. No casualties have been recorded as the incident occurred after hours. The Department of Public Works as the custodians of the building is currently making an assessment of the extent of the damage and will guide the Justice Department thereafter,” the Department’s Steve Mahlangu explains.

The Department says further announcements on the contingency plans will be made in due course, after further engagements with stakeholders.