Did court shield Block?

2013-03-24 10:00

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Court statement reveals record has gone missing.

“I cannot allow a chairperson of the ANC to go to jail.”

This was the startling statement allegedly made by Kimberley Regional Court president Khandilizwe Nqadala before he presided over one of ANC Northern Cape chairperson John Block’s corruption trials in 2003.

And, it seems, the record of this trial has gone missing.

The alleged statement was revealed in a preliminary investigation report by two magistrates into a complaint of judicial misconduct against Nqadala.

Nqadala has denied the allegations outlined in the report.

After considering the reports by magistrates NC Singh and TN Nhleko of the Durban Magistrates’ Court, the ethics committee of the Magistrates Commission decided there was insufficient evidence to substantiate charges of misconduct against Nqadala.

Central to the complaint against Nqadala in relation to Block was the allegation that he was friends with him before he presided over one of Block’s cases.

Nqadala yesterday said the report was never brought to his attention.

“I have never been a friend of John Block and I am not his friend now,” he said.

The case in question related to Block’s visit to the North Sea Jazz Festival at the expense of taxpayers.

Block apologised and paid the money back, and the corruption charge against him was eventually discharged by Nqadala in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Glen Chase, a member of the Northern Cape Civic Organisation, was never called by the prosecutor as a witness in Block’s case, even though he was the original complainant.

According to the preliminary investigation report into Nqadala, Chase told Singh and Nhleko last year that “Mr Nqadala and Mr Block know each other and they are friends”.

Vincent Mayisela, the executive officer of the legal aid office in Kimberley and an attorney, also told the investigators that, at the time of the case, he considered himself a close friend of Nqadala’s and would often have a brief chat with him.

“It was on one of these visits to the office that Mr Nqadala discussed the John Block case with him. The case had not yet been heard.

“(He) remarked that he cannot allow the chairperson of the ANC to go to jail,” the preliminary probe quoted Mayisela as saying.

Nqadala yesterday said that his discussions with Mayisela went back to a time when Nqadala had reported Mayisela’s “poor conduct” as head of Legal Aid SA.

Mayisela also told the investigators that he went into court on the day of the case and “observed that impartiality was not coming from the bench”.

But it appears from the reports leaked to City Press that this allegation could not be tested against the case record in the matter because it has disappeared from the Kimberley Regional Court’s records.

The conclusion of the investigating magistrates, based on the independent testimony of three witnesses, was that there was “ample evidence to prove that there existed a relationship between Mr John Block and Mr Nqadala”.

The report recommended that a charge of misconduct be brought.

But this recommendation was not adopted by the ethics committee because the “allegation of the existence of a friendship will be difficult to prove”.

The committee also noted that Nqadala told it he had not allocated Block’s case to himself, but that it had come to him via another magistrate, Vernon Smith, on whose roll it originally? appeared.

Nqadala told the investigators he had no relationship with Block aside from occasionally saying hello to him.

Various other complaints against Nqadala were also dismissed by the ethics committee, including a complaint against Nqadala by Mayisela.

The findings of the ethics committee have been provisionally accepted by the Magistrates Commission itself.

Ross Henderson, the chairperson of the Northern Cape Civic Organisation, said it was “contemplating taking this up for judicial review”.

Phone calls and messages left on Block’s spokesperson Lesego Letebele’s phone were not returned on Friday.

Letebele responded yesterday, saying there had been a death in his family and asked for more time to respond.

Given a late afternoon deadline, Letebele said via SMS: “U and ur editor are insensitive.”

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