Accessory (to a crime): A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates in a crime. Participation can occur before or after the crime, and the accessory need not be physically present. All that is required is that the accessory helps the principal perpetrator.

African National Congress (ANC): A political party formed in 1912, which played a large role in the overthrowing of the apartheid regime. The ANC has been the ruling party in South Africa since 1994.

Amicus Curiae: The phrase literally means ‘friend of the court’. It denotes someone who is not a party to the case, and who may or may not have been solicited by a party to the case, but who nevertheless assists the court with information, assistance, or insight.

Amnesty: An extraordinary measure that is a general pardon for offences, removing the prospect and consequence of criminal liability. It can be granted to individuals or classes of persons for designated types of offences. While amnesty is often adopted in countries during times of transition, to encourage peace and transformation, unconditional general amnesties (granted to a class of people) are considered to be incompatible with international law.

Ante-mortem: The phrase means ‘prior to death’. An ante-mortem injury is an injury that was sustained by the person before actual death occurred. It is contrasted with post-mortem, something that happened after death.

Askari: A member of the ANC who changed sides and joined the apartheid government’s forces.

Banning order: Authorised under sections 8 and 9 of the Suppression of Communism Act 44 of 1950. It could involve house arrest, restrictions on whom one could associate with, and on what gatherings one could attend.

De facto: The factual position, regardless of whether this is lawful. A person may be de facto in police custody (physically under arrest), although the arrest is illegal. It is contrasted with de jure, the legal position.

Docket (police docket): A file on a case, containing background information, details of the persons involved, a summary of the investigation so far, and other related information.

Dolus eventualis: A form of intention to commit murder where the person objectively foresees the possibility of his actions causing death, and nevertheless proceeds with it. The perpetrator does not need to have the main intention of committing murder. It is sufficient if they foresee the possibility that someone may be killed.

Ex parte application: A request made to a court where only the party making the request is present. The other side is not given notice to appear.

Founding Affidavit: The first statement by the applying party, which launches the legal case. The Founding Affidavit sets out the party’s case, and why it is seeking the court’s assistance.

Good faith: A legal term meaning an honest intention. Certain acts may cause harm, but the perpetrator can argue that the harm was due to unforeseen or unforeseeable circumstances, and that they had acted with good intentions or ‘in good faith’.

(The) Hawks: South Africa’s Directorate for investigating priority crimes, targeting organised crime, economic crime, corruption, and other serious crimes referred to it by the President of South Africa or the South African Police Service.

In abeyance: A legal term meaning something is temporarily on hold. A legal case can be held in abeyance while new evidence is gathered.

Indictment: A formal charge for the commission of a serious crime.

In loco: Meaning ‘in place’. An inspection in loco would thus refer to a site visit at the actual location in question.

Inquest: A type of court hearing, usually to determine the cause of death when the death occurred under suspicious, unclear, or unnatural circumstances.

Modus operandi: This Latin phrase is roughly translated as ‘mode of operation’ and refers to a habitual or particular method or way of doing something.

Moratorium: A temporary suspension of activity. A moratorium can be declared on prosecuting cases while parties gather more evidence.

National Party (NP): A political party founded in 1914 and disbanded in 1997, which represented Afrikaner nationalist interests. In 1948, the NP began implementing its policy of apartheid. The party was renamed the New National Party in 1997.

Pan Africanist Congress (PAC): A political party formed in 1959 by Robert Sobukwe, which was a breakaway from the African National Congress (ANC). The PAC is known for its organisation of a campaign against pass laws in March 1960. Along with the ANC, it was banned in the 1960s. In 1960, the Pac launched its armed wing, Poqo, later renamed the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA).

Post-mortem: The phrase means ‘after death’. A post-mortem injury is an injury that was sustained by the body after the person had died. It is contrasted with ante-mortem, something that happened before death.

Prima facie: A legal phrase meaning ‘on the face of it’. It is a state of affairs that seems correct on first impression, and is regarded as correct until proven otherwise.

Pro bono: Work undertaken without charging a fee. In the legal field, pro bono cases are often done for clients with low income, which are important for the public good, or which a legal practitioner feels an affinity to.

Rule nisi: A court order that will come into effect on a future date, unless certain conditions are met. If the conditions are not met, the rule nisi becomes a rule absolute, which means it is binding forevermore.

South African Communist Party (SACP): The Communist Party of South Africa was established in 1921 with close ties to Moscow. Its membership was largely white originally, but by the 1930s, it had won some support in the African National Congress (ANC). It was disbanded in 1950, but reformed as the South African Communist Party in 1953. The party took a strongly pro-Soviet stance, but cooperated closely with the ANC on apartheid resistance throughout the 1960s. Once unbanned in 1990, the party formed a close alliance with the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

State of Emergency: A situation of national danger or disaster, in which the government suspends normal legal procedures in order to gain control. During a State of Emergency, citizens are often placed under a curfew and military presence may be increased to protect the country.

Stay of prosecution: A ruling by the court to stop proceedings in a civil or criminal case. The stay of prosecution can be for a limited time, or indefinite.

Subpoena: An order by a court to provide it with information or appear before it.

Trial: Parties to a dispute appearing before a court to present information and argue their cases. Some matters do not need to go to trial, and may be argued simple ‘on papers’, meaning through legal documents.

uMkhonto weSizwe (MK): The armed wing of the ANC, established in 1961.

United Democratic Front (UDM): The United Democratic Front (UDF) was an anti-apartheid umbrella that incorporated many anti-apartheid organisations. It was launched in 1983, in Mitchells Plain. The UDF aimed to mobilise people and organisations on a national level, throughout the country, against apartheid injustices. It called for the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic South Africa. From its birth, the UDF had the support of the banned liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC). The UDF organisations became a way to link with the ANC’s internal underground structures, and to establish contacts with the ANC leadership in exile.


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