Smoking on the second floor

Neil Manthorp  Р29/09/2001

The Pretoria High Court is a smoke-free building, like most public buildings. It doesn’t even have a couple of smoking rooms, like restaurants do. Smoke-free, and there are notices all over the place reminding people.

So it was with huge amusement that three journalists found a group of lawyers and advocates huddled in a corner of the stairwell on the second floor having a puff just below a window with sufficient draught to carry the evidence of their misdemeanour outside. “What, me? Smoking, Your Honour?!”

We were looking for a canteen during the tea break on the first day of Hansie Cronje’s appeal to have his life ban overturned and had chosen the staircase because a man in handcuffs and leg-irons had just been marched into the lift and we were feeling a little timid.

Once the giggles died down at the sight of the legal men in their impressive gowns having an illegal smoke, one of them grinned at me and asked: “Where’s Hansie’s case being held?”

“Court Four E,” I replied. “Howzit going?” “I’ve no idea,” I grinned back. “Perhaps you should come and sit next to me to tell me how it’s going?”

The lawyer stubbed his cigarette out in the ash-tray (why did they leave the ash-trays there when they made the building smoke-free?) and looked me in the eye.

“Seriously, why is he doing it? Why is he challenging a ban that is mostly unenforceable anyway?” the lawyer asked me. I shrugged my shoulders but then realised he really was asking me, hoping for an answer.

A second lawyer, older and balding, chipped in: “Why didn’t he wait two or three years? Most people would have welcomed him back after a while but this looks like he’s showing no remorse at all.”

“What’s the fine for smoking in this building?” I asked with a smile. “There’s no fine for smoking – just a fine for being caught,” the younger man replied with a bigger smile. Lawyers – too clever by half.

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