Faulty air-conditioning system causes a stink in court

COMING UP FOR AIR: A broken air-conditioning system is causing stuffy, unpleasantly hot and smelly conditions in the courtooms and corridors of the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court
COMING UP FOR AIR: A broken air-conditioning system is causing stuffy, unpleasantly hot and smelly conditions in the courtooms and corridors of the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court
Image: YOLANDA PALEZWENI

From prisoners to prosecutors, there is a general air of discontent at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court  — as a result of a broken air-conditioning system.

Danie Oelofse, an attorney who informed The Herald of the situation, said the air-conditioners had been broken for months, making court work difficult, particularly because of an unpleasant odour in courtrooms and corridors.

“This is ridiculous and a total disgrace — we cannot work like this,” Oelofse said.

“I’ve been complaining to the state counsel and all other stakeholders but there’s no permanent solution brought forward — all we hear is that they are discussing the matter.”

He said the conditions had become unbearable with the recent high temperatures in the city, adding that requests to officials to rectify the situation had fallen on deaf ears.


“We sit in these courtrooms for hours and it’s so humid and stinking.

“This is bad administration of the building — it’s difficult to operate under such conditions.

“This is worse, not only for us but also for the state witnesses.

“We work with very sensitive cases and need all our concentration. How are we going to do that in such conditions?" 

A Herald reporter visited the court building in North End on Monday— and high temperatures and a pervasive odour was present in almost every courtroom.

A police officer, who asked not be named, said the air-conditioning system was centrally located and when it malfunctioned every room was affected.

A prosecutor who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was difficult to even wear the official gowns during court.

“It’s terrible to work under [these] conditions. We work with murder cases and need to focus but it’s a struggle because it’s so hot.

“Often times one feels drowsy and it’s totally unacceptable," he said.

Several attempts were made to reach the department of justice for comment, with no success.

When the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court manager was contacted, she said that her office was not in a position to speak to the media.

After several attempts the department’s provincial regional head, Dibuseng Mongoato, confirmed that her office had received the questions and would respond.

No response was forthcoming at the time of going to print.

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