Tribunal on Judge Motata's conduct begins

17 January 2018 - 12:42 By Ernest Mabuza
Image: Business Day

The tribunal investigating the complaints lodged with the Judicial Service Commissin into the conduct of retired Judge Nkola Motata began on Wednesday morning when evidence leader Ivy Thenga called the first of two witnesses to testify.

The Judicial Conduct Tribunal is probing complaints that Motata used racist language at a crash scene in January 2007 and that he breached judicial ethics by putting an untrue defence before the court during his drunk driving trial.

The tribunal president is KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achmat Jappie‚ sitting with Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Nambitha Dambuza and attorney Ilan Lax.

Motata crashed his Jaguar into the wall of a home in Hurlingham‚ Johannesburg‚ in the early hours of January 6 2007. He was alleged to have made racist comments at the scene of the crime.

Jappie‚ at the beginning of the hearing held at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand‚ said the tribunal should investigate‚ make findings and report on only these three issues:

-Whether the statements made by Motata at the scene of the accident can be classified as racist.

-If so‚ whether the statements rendered him guilty of misconduct‚ and‚

-Whether the manner in which Motata conducted his defence during his criminal trial was inconsistent with the ethics of judicial office‚ thereby rendering him guilty of gross misconduct.

Kallie Kriel‚ of the AfriForum‚ told the tribunal that Motata referred to the race of the owner of the house Motata crashed into‚ Richard Baird.

"The word 'boer' is meant to depict white people as racist and bullies who have no regard for others‚" Kriel said.

Kriel said the use of the word "boer" in itself was not offensive.

"If I use a neutral term in a context which is derogatory‚ the meaning changes‚" Kriel said.

Even though Motata retired last year‚ judges on retirement are paid for life and get all the benefits associated with that position.

If a tribunal finds that a judge should be impeached‚ it refers the finding to the National Assembly‚ which must have a two-thirds majority vote‚ to be sanctioned by the president.

A judge who has been impeached loses his or her salary‚ allowances and all benefits.

The hearing continues.