Magistrate awarded R9m in damages

2012-09-05 22:28
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Pretoria - A chief magistrate’s "old apartheid" style of management resulted in a severe tongue lashing by a High Court Judge in Pretoria this week.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius awarded a former Randburg career magistrate, Machiel Reinecke, R9.46m damages and even more in interest, dating back eight years, as a result of unfair treatment he suffered.

The judge found Randburg chief magistrate Cedric Booi had made it impossible for Reinecke to continue his career.

A preliminary disciplinary inquiry into Booi’s conduct, led by two of his senior colleagues, described his management style as "that of an old apartheid manager".

"He does not consult. He does not ask. He does not say thank you. He gives orders and if you dare to differ, then the hell with all its fury will come down on you," they said.

The justice department refused to pay for Reinecke’s resettlement costs when he was transferred from Germiston to Randburg at state expense, because Booi did not sign the forms.

Booi also decided Reinecke was not entitled to a travel and subsistence allowance, and refused to discuss the issue with him.

After Reinecke lodged a grievance with the magistrate’s commission, Booi terminated his duties as a relief magistrate and used him to perform clerical work. This was despite a dire need for relief magistrates at the Randburg magistrate's office.

Booi did not recommend Reinecke for a merit award in 2001 despite glowing commendations for his performance as a magistrate. Booi refused to meet Reinecke to discuss his grievances and Reinecke, regarding his treatment as punishment, resigned under protest in January 2002.

He thereafter sued President Jacob Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe for damages, claiming he was victimised and unfairly discriminated against.

Pretorius said Booi unilaterally amended Reinecke’s terms of appointment to punish him for daring to lay a grievance. He deprived the magistrate’s office of an experienced and conscientious legal officer by his actions.

"It is clear that the plaintiff was humiliated and degraded by the actions of Mr Booi which was so serious that it led to [his] resignation," she said.

"After his resignation he appeared as a prosecutor in courts where he was previously the magistrate, which was further degrading.

"The plaintiff was a career magistrate who according to the commendations he had received and on his own evidence enjoyed his work and made a difference wherever he was deployed, be it as magistrate, head of office or regional magistrate.

"Unfortunately, Mr Booi through his intransigence, made it impossible for [Reinecke] to continue as a magistrate and [his] only option was to resign," she said.

Pretorius found Reinecke would most likely have been promoted to senior magistrate and should be compensated accordingly.

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