May 24 2011
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe says he is of the “firm view” that Judge Nkola Motata should remain on special leave with full pay until the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has concluded its investigation into allegations of gross misconduct levelled against him, even though the judge has now been booked off for four years.
Judge Nkola Motata has been on leave with full pay for four years.
Radebe’s comments come as a sub-committee and the investigative arm of the JSC, the judicial conduct committee, on Friday ruled that the complaint against Motata lodged by rights group AfriForum warranted being dealt with by a judicial tribunal, to be appointed by Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo.
Motata, found guilty in 2009 by the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court of driving under the influence, has been on special leave with full pay since May 2007. In 2006 a judge earned about R60 000 a month.
“I am of the firm view that Judge Motata should continue to be on special leave until the JSC has concluded its investigation of the complaint brought against him,” said Radebe in a parliamentary written response to questions posed by Cope MP Dirk Feldman.
Radebe said he was in agreement with the decision of his predecessor, Brigitte Mabandla, to grant the judge leave pending the finalisation of his hearing on a charge of drunk driving and that his leave should be extended.
The case dates to early 2007 when Motata crashed his Jaguar into the wall of Richard Baird’s house in Hurlingham, Johannesburg. He was found guilty of driving under the influence in November 2010.
“Subsequent to his conviction and sentence in November 2010, a complaint was laid against him with the JSC to investigate whether in light of his conviction and sentence he is fit to hold judicial office,” said Radebe.
Motata unsuccessfully appealed his conviction in the Johannesburg High Court that month.
On Friday, JSC spokesman advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said the conduct committee had found that AfriForum had a prima facie case of gross misconduct against the judge for allegedly racist remarks made against white people on the night of the car crash.
Three separate complaints, including that by AfriForum, a second by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the third by advocate Gert Pretorius in his personal capacity, had been lodged with the commission, he said. Following a sitting of the committee on May 14 it had recommended to the JSC that the case should rightfully be heard by a judicial tribunal.
The recommendation would be tabled with the JSC at its next sitting in October. The JSC would then request that Justice Ngcobo select members for the tribunal and set up the time frame, said Ntsebeza.
Asked when the JSC expected the matter to be finalised, Ntsebeza said: “I don’t know, the wheels of justice grind slowly. I don’t know if it’s urgent, but it is important.”
The decision to extend Motata’s special leave fell squarely with the Department of Justice, said Ntsebeza.
Justice spokesman Tlali Tlali said: “You cannot interfere with remuneration of someone who is on leave – he’s on paid leave.”
Feldman, who put the questions to Radebe, said he was “deeply concerned” that Motata’s leave had been extended. He called on the JSC to “set an example” and “draw the line” with Motata’s case and called on the judge to “immediately resign”.
DA Parliamentary leader Athol Trollip said while he respected that legal process be allowed to take its course, it was a “worrisome phenomenon” that public servants who were paid out of the public purse were allowed to receive a salary month after month for interminable periods.
“They cost taxpayers a king’s ransom for nothing in return. The processes must be sped up,” he said.