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Judges in Senzo Meyiwa trial facing suspension over delayed judgments

By Zelda Venter | Pretoria News |

SOUTH AFRICA – Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela, who presides over the Senzo Meyiwa trial, is one of the two judges facing suspension for allegedly failing to deliver a series of judgments within a reasonable time.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has recommended the suspension of Judges Maumela and Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi, pending the outcome of an inquiry into their alleged failure to deliver a series of reserved judgments.

In a statement released yesterday, the JSC said it had advised President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend the two judges due to the seriousness of the complaints.

The JSC decided to advise the president that it is desirable that Judges Maumela and Mngqibisa-Thusi be placed on suspension pending the outcome of the tribunal processes.

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The JSC, however, said the suspensions should be with certain conditions, which include that the judges must, during the period of suspension, finalise all matters that are presently before them.

It is understood from this that Judge Maumela will have to continue with the Meyiwa trial, although the trial is expected to last for an extended period of time.

The JSC said that at its meetings on January 26 and 20 April 2023, it considered the reports of the Judicial Conduct Committee relating to the complaints against the judges relating to their failure to deliver numerous reserved judgments.

“The JSC decided that the failure to deliver the reserved judgments, if established, will prima facie indicate incapacity, gross incompetence or gross misconduct on the part of the judges, taking into account the extent of the delay and the prejudice suffered by the parties,” it said.

The JSC has subsequently decided to request, in terms of section 19 of the Judicial Service Commission Act, that the Chief Justice appoint a Judicial Conduct Tribunal (Tribunal) to consider the complaints and will advise the president of its decision.

At this stage, it is not clear how many judgments from each judge are outstanding. However, if the tribunal finds them guilty of gross misconduct, their legal careers could be in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the Meyiwa murder trial is expected to resume in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, from May 2 to May 26, whereafter it will be postponed to resume again from June 5 to June 15.

Two years ago, three (then) retired judges of the Pretoria high court were found guilty of misconduct for delivering a series of judgments between them after more than a year the actual hearings took place.

The JSC, in that matter, decided to give judges Ferdi Preller, Moses Mavundla and Ntsikelelo Poswa a slap on the wrist as a sanction.

The three had to apologise to then Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, as well as to the litigants involved. They were also reprimanded by the commission.

This, while in the minority judgment, some members of the commission felt the three judges should have been found guilty of gross misconduct.

In this minority judgment, members of the commission’s panel said, in their opinion, each judge should have been fined R500 000, payable over six months.

The commission’s conduct tribunal investigated the complaints after they were lodged some years ago by Judge Ngoepe while he still headed this division of the high court.

In the majority ruling, the panel felt that an apology and a reprimand would “amend the wrongs done by the respondent justices to the parties; and will vindicate the principle underpinning the finding of guilt.”

The panel said while an apology satisfied assuaged the feelings of the litigants and went some way in restoring the damage to the respect for the judiciary, a reprimand stood as an official rebuke for the conduct of the justices.