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MBABANE – Cheques of bail returns have been lying at the Mbabane Magistrates court for over five years.

Most of these cheques belong to people who at first came to check if the cheques were available but would be informed they had not been released from the Treasury Department. Suspects who pay bail can claim it back upon acquittal.
Court employees said the money took as long as a year to be released from the Treasury Department and many people gave up on getting it back after coming to the court for over six months with no positive feedback.

“The problem is with traffic offences where the people are allowed to pay bail at the police station for their freedom over the weekend. They are usually charged a high bail amount but when they appear in court, they are sometimes given a fine less than the bail amount. It would help if the courts worked during the weekend and the people did not need to pay bail at the police station,” said one of the employees, who asked not to be named.

People are seen every day coming to the court to enquire about their bail returns and they are always informed that their cheques have not returned, resulting in most of them giving up on getting their money back.
Some of the cheques have expired as they were processed over a year ago. These cheques can’t be given to their owners as the court employees have no access to making phone calls to cellphones to inform the owners to come and fetch them.

Supreme Court Registrar Lorraine Hlophe said the delay was caused by the process which the cheques go through.
“We would like to encourage those who handle the cheques to sort out the matter as quickly as possible.
“This is a consolidated fund so it is a long process. We do wish for a quicker way to process bail returns,” she said.

Hlophe explained that after a bail claim was handed to the court clerk it was then sent to the magistrate, who has to sign it before it is sent to the High Court to the controlling officer, where it is then sent to the accountant before being sent to the Treasury Department.
She said if the person who was claiming had all their paperwork in order, things run smoothly. Hlophe further pleaded that all the people who this process passes through must not relax but do what was required of them in a timely manner and see to it that the owner is refunded the money.

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