Can money buy justice in SA?

South Africans and legal minds are debating whether big money can buy a favourable outcome in court.

FILE: Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of murder 'dolus eventualis' on Friday 12 September 2014. Picture: Pool.

JOHANNESBURG - The judgment of Oscar Pistorius as not guilty of murder 'dolus eventualis' has left legal minds perplexed and sparked dinner table debate around the justice system in South Africa.

More specifically, questions have been raised around whether or not you are more likely to get a favourable outcome in court if you have more money to spend.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's Bruce Whitfield, legal firm Werksmans Head of Business Crimes and Forensics, Bernard Hotz, agrees the more you pay, the better your outlook in court.

"However much money you spend to keep out of jail, it's well worth spending. That said there are very competent lawyers out there who do not charge at that level who can present awesome defences.

"But if you want to drive the Rolls Royce and you can afford to do so, why not?"


Hotz says Pistorius spent about R100,000 per day for the legal industry's top brass team of Barry Roux and his associates.

"A legal team comprising senior council including someone of the ilk of Barry Roux, you're looking at anywhere between R26,000 and R45,000 per day while the junior council charges about two thirds of a senior council's rate while a senior attorney would charge between R3,500 and R4,500 per hour.

"Barry Roux also had assistance with him. There was also a need to utilise the services of independent experts. So if you do the sums very roughly, you're looking at about R100,000 per day."

Hotz notes there's also preparation before the trial which adds to the charges.

"If an advocate is charging R40,000 per day, they would also charge R4,000 per hour for preparation for the entire team.

"Considerable prep time was needed in the Oscar trial. There were a number of witnesses, a number of international experts that were utilised in preparation for, but not necessarily utilised at the trial.

"I should imagine that the recreation of the scene by US experts must have set them back a tidy sum as well."

By the end of 44 trial days, the total cost amounts to an estimated R4.5 million, with a fair guesstimate of about R2 million for preparation on top of that.

If there is an appeal, the appeal court would look at the evidence, the record and the argument presented by the legal teams.

This would also add about another million to Oscar's bill.

By the end of the process, the bill would have totalled about R7.5 million.


The case of South African musician Jub Jub has been cast into the spotlight following the Oscar trial verdict.

Jub Jub ran over a group of children when he raced a car while high on cocaine.

He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison because he could have foreseen the fact that drag racing next to a school could prove deadly, a typical example of 'dolus eventualis'.

Pistorius went to find a gun, shot four times through a bathroom door, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, yet was found not guilty.

Asked if the state would have thrown their best prosecutor, heavyweight Gerry Nel, at someone completely unknown who shot his girlfriend through the bathroom door in a small town, Hotz's answer was a simple "don't think so, but that wouldn't necessarily determine the outcome".

The EWN Oscar Pistorius live blog will return on the morning of 13 October 2014 where sentencing proceedings will begin in the North Gauteng High Court.

For more on the trial click here.