State vs stokes murder trial
11 November 1996
The ANC Merebank Branch is extremely concerned about the handling of the murder trial in the matter of the State vs Stokes by the Orange Free State Attorney General`s (Mr.M.T. Merwe) office. The accused, Mr. A. Stokes was charged in November 1995 for the murder of Mr Nithianandan (Elvis) Govender who was a member of our branch and a trainee diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
On 16th December 1995, the ANC Merebank Branch addressed a letter to the Minister of Justice, Dr. Dullah Omar, expressing our outrage at:
- the granting of unconditional bail to the accused with the full knowledge that he would be leaving the country and against the explicit instructions of the A-G,
- the setting of the trial date to accommodate the accused`s holiday plans,
- the insensitive and negligent handling of the police investigation, in particular the late arrest of the accused.
Our branch is gratified to note that Minister Omar is of the view that our fears and concerns are fully justified, as expressed in his letter to the ANC Merebank Branch.
The Attorney-General responded to Minister Omar`s queries in February this year. The response of the Attorney-General, forwarded to our branch by the Minister, has convinced us that justice will not be done. Minister Omar has himself rejected the A-G`s response as "insensitive and inappropriate". From the response of the A-G, it is clear that his department is unwilling to prosecute this matter effectively. His comments indicate to us that he has prejudged the outcome of this matter.
The Attorney-General, in his arrogance, has trivialised a violent and racially motivated murder. He goes to the extent of justifying and excusing the behaviour of Stokes, as well as his bungling of the case thus far. Having been entrusted with the responsibility of bringing to book an alleged murderer, the A-G goes so as far as to blame the victim for his own death.
To allow the Orange Free State Attorney General`s Office to continue handling this matter will be travesty of justice. Moreover the seriousness off the crime warrants prosecution in the Supreme Court and not in the Regional Court as the A-G has deemed fit. This continuing outrage and injustice must stop now.
We therefore demand:
- That the matter be removed from the Orange Free State Attorney-General`s juristriction
- That the matter be heard in the Supreme Court and prosecuted by someone willing to ensure that justice is done,
- That immediate action be taken by the Justice department to rectify his situation and prevent further miscarriages of justice.
As the contents of the Attorney-General`s letter is sub-judice, we believe it cannot be used for publication at this point. We are currently seeking legal opinion on this and may release it to the press thereafter.