Judge Nana Makhubele should be suspended pending probe outcome: JSC

15 October 2020 - 08:55 By Franny Rabkin
If President Ramaphosa suspends the two judges, they will be the first suspensions for gross misconduct in SA since 1994.
If President Ramaphosa suspends the two judges, they will be the first suspensions for gross misconduct in SA since 1994.
Image: GroundUp/Judges Matter

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has advised President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend Gauteng high court judge Nana Makhubele, until a judicial conduct tribunal has decided whether to recommend she be impeached for gross misconduct.

In a statement from the JSC on Wednesday, it announced that it would advise two suspensions for complaints of gross misconduct. Western Cape high court judge Mushtak Parker also faces suspension pending resolution of a gross misconduct investigation. If Ramaphosa suspends the two judges, they will be the first suspensions for gross misconduct in SA since 1994.

Makhubele faces impeachment on a complaint from civil society coalition #UniteBehind that, after she was appointed a judge from January 1 2018, she continued to serve as chairperson of the board of Prasa — a double role that was improper, said #UniteBehind.

The organisation also alleged that, during that time, she pushed through — contrary to the legal advice of her own legal affairs division, which she sidelined — the settlement of claims for about R59m with a set of companies in the Siyaya group, owned by Makhensa Mabunda. Mabunda was politically connected to Prasa’s former and allegedly corrupt CEO Lucky Montana.

The Siyaya group had almost R1bn worth of contracts with Prasa, making the contracts part of a bigger state capture pattern. Her conduct as far as these claims were concerned was materially prejudicial to Prasa’s interests and therefore amounted to gross misconduct, said #UniteBehind. Earlier this year, Makhubele was grilled at length at the state capture inquiry on substantially the same allegations.

She has consistently denied them, telling the state capture inquiry that when she next appeared she would show that the allegations were untrue.

The Judicial Conduct Committee — the body that makes a preliminary recommendation to the Judicial Service Commission — had earlier said that if these allegations were true, they were “very serious”.

The JSC said on Wednesday that, having considered the complaint, the submissions made by all the parties and the Judicial Conduct Committee’s recommendation, it had decided that a tribunal — which looks into potentially impeachable conduct — was warranted.

It would also advise the president that “it would be desirable” to suspend Makhubele pending the finalisation of the complaint.

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