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Judicial Conduct Tribunal into judge named in Zondo Commission Report begins today

Hannah Omarjee | homarjee@radioislam.co.za
21 February 2023 | 15:30 PM CAT
5 min read

Photo Credit: Business Live – Judge Nana Makhubele

As of today, the Judicial Conduct Tribunal (JCT) set aside three days to hear a watershed case against Judge Nana Makhubele.

Makhubele, named in the Zondo Commission, faces charges of gross judicial misconduct in a complaint filed by the civil society organisation #UniteBehind. If found guilty, the judge could be impeached.

Mbekezeli Benjamin from “Judges Matter’s” said Makhubele faces two allegations; the first stems from the fact that she was a judge and the chairperson of a state-owned company, PRASA, which is a violation of the separation of powers principle and judicial ethics. The second allegation against Makhubele is her alleged intervention to advance the interests of a company accused of state capture and corruption. At the same time, she was still the board chairperson at PRASA.

A loosely defined watershed case is a ruling that changes a law’s applicability such that all subsequent cases and rulings are directed in a particular direction. This case is referred to as a watershed case because there has never been another judge before the State Capture Commission. Even then, they could not complete the investigation; hence, the issue is now being transferred to the Judicial Conduct Tribunal. The JCT will investigate the allegations further to determine what occurred and how Makhubele was involved in the incidents.

The Judicial Conduct Tribunal is a unique body established by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The role of the tribunal was to investigate allegations against the judge. Generally, a Conduct Tribunal is set up when there is a possibility that a judge could be found guilty and impeached. Benjamin says,” It is the most serious category of offences that a judge may face, and the Judicial Conduct Tribunal is there to investigate, to hear evidence of witnesses, to subpoena people and get the information that it needs in order to establish whether there are credible information or evidence against the judge.”

The tribunal panel includes a retired judge who sits with two assistants, another retired judge, and a practising attorney. There will also be Makhubele’s legal side, the complainant, the evidence leader, and a legal team from the National Prosecuting Agency. Each team can plead the case by presenting witnesses and evidence. Benjamin says,” This week, we’ll hear a lot of the witnesses from the evidence leaders’ side, so we’ll hear from the senior judge, Judge Dunstan Mlambo, who is the judge president in Gauteng. We’ll also hear from the former head of the legal department at PRASA, Martha Ngoye, and they will be testifying, and they will be asked questions by both legal teams, but also the panel that is at the tribunal.”

After all evidence and witnesses are presented to the panel, the tribunal compiles a report stating whether the judge is guilty. If the judge is guilty, the report is sent to the Judicial Service Commission, which decides whether the judge will be impeached. If the judge is impeached, it is transferred to the parliament.

Although there’s still a long road ahead, Benjamin says, “This is a significant moment, in that now we will actually hear the true evidence of what happened.” It took four years to complain Makhubele, but “Judges Matter’s” is hopeful because the JSC is trying to move forward with some of these issues with a sense of urgency.”

#UniteBehind, the organisation that laid the complaint, is a collection of movements primarily based on the Western Cape but also works across the country. They are an activist organisation that has been trying to place the spotlight on how trains, and not functioning, are linked to corruption and state capture. Their key focus was to try to fix the PRASA. #UniteBehind has a campaign called ‘Fix Our Train,’ where they’ve been exposing the corruption that has taken place at PRASA.

Listen to the full interview on Sabahul Muslim with host Ml Sulaimaan Ravat and his guest, Mbekezeli Benjamin from “Judges Matter’s”,

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