The Committee considered the Magistrates Commission reports on Magistrates who had faced disciplinary hearings. Mr Chauke was convicted of receiving stolen containers. He also emailed explicit pornographic material to other persons on a computer belonging to the Department. The Magistrates Commission recommended upliftment of his provisional suspension. Mr Prinsloo was charged with ten counts of misconduct and pleaded guilty to all the charges. The Magistrates Commission recommended upliftment of his provisional suspension. Mr Rambau was arrested together with the prosecutor and an attorney for corruption and arranging the outcome of a trial for a reward. The Magistrates Commission recommended provisional suspension until the outcome of the criminal trial. Mr Skwenya was charged with fraud in the district court due to misrepresentations he had made. The Magistrates Commission recommended provisional suspension. Mr Morake appeared before the Lichtenburg district court on three charges of theft and had made rulings in his office without applying his mind. The Magistrates Commission recommended provisional suspension. Ms Maharaj faced several charges. Whilst practicing as an attorney Ms Maharaj recovered money on behalf of a client. She refused to pay back the money and told the person, ‘I have a lot of clout and will make you spend the next three years fighting for your money’. The Magistrates Commission recommended suspension. Mr Jassiem misled the Cape Law Society by stating he had permission from the Magistrate Commission to practice as an attorney whilst still a magistrate. The Magistrates Commission recommended suspension.
The Committee approved the recommendations from the Magistrates Commission in all the matters. However, it complained vigorously that the Magistrates Commission was too slow in finalising these matters. Also with those cases awaiting a criminal trial outcome, an attempt should be made to expedite these trials. Provisional suspension meant the magistrate received full pay.
Magistrate Chauke: Upliftment of Provisional Suspension
Mr J Meijer, Magistrates Commission, informed the Committee that Mr Chauke was charged with theft for containers that had been stolen from Vitamine Laboratories in Midrand. Mr Chauke was convicted of receiving these stolen containers in 2007. Mr Chauke sent explicit pornographic material to other persons on a computer belonging to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD). Mr Chauke apologized for sending the pornographic material at the inquiry. Considering all the facts, the Magistrates Commission had recommended for upliftment.
Mr G Ndabandaba (ANC) asked if the apology was written or verbal.
Mr Meijer replied that the apology was in writing and it was made orally before the Commission.
The Committee approved the request for the upliftment.
Magistrate Prinsloo: Upliftment of Provisional Suspension
Mr M Louw, Magistrates Commission, explained that Mr Prinsloo was charged with ten counts of misconduct and he pleaded guilty to the charges. The presiding officer recommended that Mr Prinsloo should be reprimanded and tender an apology to the complainant. Mr Prinsloo had been provisionally suspended and the request to Parliament was to have that suspension lifted. There was initially mediation between Mr Prinsloo and the complainant who was a woman that worked in his office.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) said that it was difficult to assess the case as there was not much information available on what the charges were. It was strange that Mr Prinsloo conducted himself in an embarrassing and unbecoming manner on ten different occasions towards the complainant. In future the Committee had to know what the charges were. What were the ten charges?
Mr Louw replied that it would have been better if they could be provided in writing because to read them out would be embarrassing; there was a lot of swearing. Mr Prinsloo made calls to the complainant and uttered a lot of swear words.
Mr Jeffery commented that he found it weird how anyone could say that they were provoked when they were doing the calling.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked if the sum total of the charges was based on the use of vulgar language or was there anything else.
Mr Louw replied that it was only the vulgar language, which happened after hours and there was no physical contact. The incitement happened after hours and there was no physical harm.
Mr Ndabandaba said that it would have been useful if the Committee had all the relevant information.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee agreed with the recommendation for the upliftment.
The Members replied in the affirmative.
Magistrate Rambau: Provisional Suspension from office of a Magistrate
Mr Meijer explained that Mr Rambau was arrested together with the prosecutor and an attorney for corruption. This was as a result of an authorised undercover investigation. Mr Rambau, the prosecutor and the attorney arranged the outcome of a trial for a reward. The Ethics Committee invited Mr Rambau to show cause why he should not be suspended and he did so. There were regular telephone calls between Mr Rambau, the prosecutor and the attorney. It appeared that other regional magistrates could be involved.
Mr Swart said that this matter was very serious as Mr Rambau was a higher-level regional court magistrate; the provisional suspension should be supported.
Mr Jeffery commented that he did not know why the Magistrates Commission wanted to wait for the conclusion of the criminal trial before making a decision.
Mr Meijer replied that the Magistrates Commission had debated the matter raised by Mr Jeffery. The state had initiated the investigation, which was complex, and they did not want the Magistrates Commission to interfere in any way as this may jeopardise the state’s case.
Mr Jeffery said that the quid pro quo was that this kind of case had to be dealt with expeditiously.
Mr Swart said that the matter raised by Mr Jeffery had been raised by with the Chief Justice and it was a challenge. The then Chief Justice had indicated that the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) normally waited for the outcome of the criminal trial before instituting disciplinary proceedings. The Committee had to look further into this. There has to be a way of expediting these matters.
Mr Meijer said that the Magistrates Commission had written a letter to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to expedite any criminal matters involving a magistrate. Magistrates tended to play sick, change attorneys etc in order to delay proceedings so this was a problem.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee supported the request for the suspension of Mr Rambau.
The Committee replied in the affirmative.
Magistrate Skwenya: Provisional Suspension from office of a Magistrate
Mr Louw explained that Mr Skwenya was charged with fraud in the district court due to misrepresentations he had made. Mr Skwenya used an official vehicle for private trips and then submitted a government claim. Mr Skwenya’s defence was that he accidentally submitted the claim. Mr Skwenya also alleged that the sub-cluster head to whom he reported was ‘pregnant with hatred’ towards him. The criminal trial and internal investigation had already commenced.
Mr Jeffery said that he was worried that the matter was taking too long. An April 2009 case should have been over by now. The matters under 2.4 of the document were internal; there was no indication that any disciplinary steps had been taken in this regard. This seemed to be a problem with the Commission.
Mr Louw replied that an inquiry into the allegations raised under 2.4 had commenced and there would be a sitting on the 9 December 2010. There was a good possibility that the criminal matter would be concluded on the 18 November 2010.
Mr Jeffery requested that it should be recorded that the Committee was dissatisfied with the amount of time it took to resolve both matters concerning Mr Skwenya.
Mr Ndabandaba agreed with Mr Jeffery, if such matters took too long then this would not act as a deterrent to other magistrates.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee agreed with the request for a provisional suspension subject to the concerns it raised.
The Committee Members replied in the affirmative.
Mr Meijer informed Members that the Magistrates Commission received various complaints on a regular basis against Mr Morake who was the head of office in Lichtenburg. Mr Morake appeared before the Lichtenburg district court on three charges of theft. Mr Morake had been criminally charged and suspended a few years back. Mr Morake appeared in court but said that he was not well and requested a postponement until 1 December 2010. The criminal matter was postponed until 1 December 2010. The other charges were summarized under paragraph 2.2 to 2.6. Mr Morake instructed community members to come to his office and then made rulings without any applications on any matter. The community, judiciary and legal fraternity were all up in arms over his conduct.
Mr Swart said that the allegations were shocking and extreme. Mr Morake had no idea on how to dispense justice in a fair and equitable manner and was clearly abusing his office. The recommendations were supported but again the time frames were too long.
Mr Jeffery referred to page 5 and asked what Mr Morake’s response was. He requested that in future the responses should be included in the reports. These cases were taking too long.
Mr Meijer said that it was difficult because whilst investigations were ongoing, new allegations came to the fore. In addition the Commission took some time to consider the matter because it did not have a quorum – this was due to a parliamentary process that had to appoint additional members. The Magistrates Commission did not want to deal with these matters in a piecemeal manner; it wanted to deal with all the complaints at the same time. The concerns of the Committee were noted.
Mr Jeffery asked if all the provisional suspensions and suspensions were with full pay.
Mr Meijer said that all the cases were with full pay. The responses by Mr Morake were with the attachment sent to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. His response read as follows, “If my being on the bench is causing problems, it is possible to be in the office and attend to other matters. Attached please find a letter written by the ANC Youth League, which would give a perspective on my fitness to hold office. The charges are trumped up as usual and I am confident of my acquittal.”
The Chairperson asked if the Committee supported the request for the suspension.
The Committee replied in the affirmative.
Mr Meijer said that a suspension was actually a removal from office; the Magistrates Act was vague in that regard. In the matters involving Ms Maharaj and Mr Jassiem the Minister had suspended both of them.
Mr Jeffery asked if the Committee was being asked for the confirmation to have them effectively removed from office.
Mr Meijer said that this was correct.
The Committee accepted the report of the Magistrates Commission.
Ms Maharaj: Suspension of a Magistrate
On the suspension of Ms Maharaj, Mr Louw said that the matter had been coming a long way since March 2007. The initial charges were eight but the Magistrates Commission proceeded with two of them. Additional charges were added later. The first charge related to a case where Ms Maharaj made the comment ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’ in reference to a deceased person involved in the case in which she was presiding. Ms Maharaj explained that the comment had been made in reference to a drunkard who had been sitting in the gallery the whole day and had just exited at the time of the comment. Ms Maharaj was found guilty on this charge. Ms Maharaj had not been appointed, she was on probation. Ms Maharaj recovered money on behalf of a client by the name of Ms Fredericks. Ms Maharaj then refused to pay back the money and told Ms Fredericks that ‘I have a lot of clout and would make you spend the next three years fighting for your money’. It was only after a complaint was raised with the Magistrates Commission that Ms Maharaj paid the money into Ms Fredericks’ bank account. Ms Maharaj made a comment that she would not be lenient if an attorney by the name of Mr Van Zyl brought a case before her as he was continuing to withhold her deposit in respect of unit two. Ms Maharaj entered into a rental contract with an estate agent. Upon evacuating the premises she demanded the deposit but would not hand over the keys. She subsequently threatened and harassed the estate agent and said that she had many contacts and would make her life hell. Ms Maharaj fraudulently misrepresented to Sun Coast Casino that a cheque made out to the organisation would be met upon presentation to the bank, this was not the case as Standard Bank referred Sun Coast Casino back to Ms Maharaj, and the amount in question was R2000. Ms Maharaj pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Ms Maharaj was found guilty on all the charges. Ms Maharaj conceded that she had lied on the comments made in reference to a deceased person involved in a case she was presiding in. The matter was handed over to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and she was being charged with perjury.
Ms Maharaj had entered into a contract with the Minister and was in breach of contract, the Minister could choose not to appoint her as she was still on probation. The Magistrates Commission was of the view that the Parliamentary route should be taken and Ms Maharaj removed from office.
Mr S Holomisa (ANC) said that if Ms Maharaj was in breach of contract was it necessary to go the Parliamentary route.
Mr Jeffery said that what was the point of having a probation period if a person had to be appointed, how long was the probation period? The Committee should see the charge sheet? Why was the Magistrates Commission investigating things that Ms Maharaj had done whilst she was an attorney, was it not the prerogative of the relevant law society?
Mr Meijer read the service contract, which Ms Maharaj entered into with the Minister of Justice to the Committee. It was the view of the Magistrates Commission that Ms Maharaj was in breach of the contract. A legal opinion was sought which recommended the Parliamentary route.
Mr Jeffery said that there was no difference between a permanently appointed magistrate and a provisionally appointed one. When it came to contract matters there was an obvious difference. The Committee should get a copy of the opinion as well.
Magistrate Jassiem: Suspension of a Magistrate
Mr Meijer replied that the comments have been taken note of. Mr Jassiem was an attorney in Mitchell’s Plein. Mr Jassiem applied to be a magistrate in Polokwane and received the post. He requested to be transferred back to Mitchell’s Plein. Upon his successful transfer he applied to the Cape Law Society to practice as an attorney whilst still a magistrate. Mr Jassiem misled the law society by stating that he had permission from the Magistrates Commission to practice as an attorney whilst still a magistrate. This was totally unacceptable. This was tended to Mr Jassiem in a letter which he denied receiving during the inquiry. Mr Jassiem also misled the Commission
Mr Ndabandaba said that Mr Jassiem’s conduct was unethical, dishonest and there was a clash of interests.
The Committee agreed and accepted the report of the Magistrates Commission.
- Provisional Suspension from office of a Magistrate: Mr Skwenya submission
- Provisional Suspension from office of a Magistrate: Mr F Rambau submission
- Upliftment of Provisional Suspension of a Magistrate: Mr W Prinsloo submission
- Provisional Suspension of a Magistrate: Mr I Morake submission
- Suspension of a Magistrate: Ms A Maharaj submission
- Suspension of a Magistrate: Mr M Jassiem submission
- Upliftment of Provisional Suspension from office of a Magistrate: Mr M Chauke submission
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