Editorial | Simply no place for violence in politics

ANC councillor Andile Lungisa arrives at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court
ANC councillor Andile Lungisa arrives at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court
Image: Eugene Coetzee

On Wednesday, the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court sentenced the ANC’s Andile Lungisa to an effective two years in jail for smashing a glass jug over DA councillor Rano Kayser’s head during a council brawl in 2016.

The sentence has sparked an emotive debate between those who think it is too harsh and those who say it is a fitting punishment for the crime.

The aggrieved make comparative arguments stating, correctly so, that courts do not often impose jail time for the crime of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, especially upon firsttime offenders.

Lungisa’s supporters go even further to claim that magistrate Morne Cannon failed to comprehend the political context of the brawl.

The more ridiculous argument, of course, is from those who claim that behind Cannon’s sentence is a sinister political motive.

Like any other, the appropriateness of the sentence will always be a matter of debate. However, it is important to understand that in law no two cases are ever the same.

Courts have a duty to consider a range of factors before them in order to conclude an outcome.

A significant part of this is the extent to which an offender shows remorse.
In this case, as the court noted, Lungisa did not show remorse.

He failed to demonstrate an understanding of the most basic fundamental issue which is that, regardless of the political context, in law his actions were criminal and unacceptable.

In the end, Lungisa demonstrated regret for the legal consequences of his behaviour, rather than an acceptance that he indeed transgressed a law of the republic.

Lungisa has the option to petition higher courts in his quest for freedom.

Regardless of the outcome of his continuing legal fight, we hope that his case will serve as a powerful lesson to all that violence should never be an acceptable language of politics in a democracy.