Drunk-driving judge gets another reprieve

2014-02-23 06:00

The court review of judicial misconduct laws by Constitutional Court justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta has caused misconduct proceedings against Judge Nkola Motata, convicted of drunk driving in 2009, to be put on ice.

The judicial misconduct tribunal was yesterday postponed by KwaZulu-Natal’s deputy judge president, Achmat Jappie, the tribunal president.

The postponement came after Motata raised a preliminary point similar to that raised by Nkabinde and Jafta in Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s misconduct hearing.

This means that Motata’s retirement in 2017 – and the accompanying benefits, like pension – will likely come before the complaints against him are ever resolved by the tribunal.

The preliminary point he raised relates to a section of the Judicial Service Commission Act, which empowers the tribunal president to consult with the minister of justice and the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and to appoint a member of the NPA to collect and lead evidence before the tribunal.

Advocate Themba Skosana, appearing for Motata, said the provision was problematic because of the “issue of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary”.

While the court review of an initial ruling by justices Nkabinde and Jafta in the Hlophe misconduct case is broader, it also includes a challenge of the constitutionality around the appointment of an NPA member.

Skosana asked that the matter stand down until that review had been decided.

Advocate Gerrit Pretorius, one of the complainants in the case against Motata, said it was “regrettable”, but agreed a postponement was the best way to go forward.

“This matter has been drawn out far too long and it seems as if Judge Motata will take every possible way to delay the matter even further,” said Pretorius.

Jappie said it was true that “if that [Hlophe] challenge is successful, then the work of this tribunal will be undone”.

“It is prudent to place all further proceedings of this tribunal on hold pending what is decided ... one way or the other.”

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