I’m not against Indians, says Judge Madondo

2012-04-26 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Judge Isaac Madondo says comments he made last year, which were misinterpreted by the media and wrongly portrayed him as racist and anti-Indian, were “haunting him like ghosts”.

In an exclusive interview with The Witness, he said the media were unfairly portraying him in a bad light. They were harping on past remarks he allegedly made when he was interviewed for the post of the province’s judge president last year.

In the latest reports concerning his recent contest against Judge Fikile Mokgohloa for the position of deputy judge president, he was also unfairly and wrongly portrayed “as a lackey of politicians” and not as someone who has credibility in judicial circles, he said.

“I was referred to as having strong political backing, but I don’t know what backing that is … No politician nominated me or commented on my nomination, so I don’t know where the impression came from.”

Judge Madondo said the media downplayed the support he enjoyed from the Black Lawyers’ Association nationally, by indicating that his support was mainly from the Pietermaritzburg branch.

He told The Witness yesterday that various media reports about his alleged racial and “anti-Indian” comments when he was interviewed for judge president last year were “distorted and inaccurate”.

He said the views he expressed were taken out of context and the picture of him that emerged was untrue.

“I am not a racist or anti-Indian … That is not my background. As chairperson of the joint empowerment committee of the Black Lawyers’ Association and National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) between 2003 and 2007, I have been fighting for all disadvantaged groups.”

He said headlines to the effect that Judge Chiman Patel was “not black enough” for the position of judge president and that Indians were “not oppressed enough” were completely wrong.

He had been asked if he thought the time was right for KwaZulu-Natal to have an Indian judge president and he’d said no.

He said he’d referred to the demographics in KZN and the fact that 86% of the population was black, eight percent Indian and lower percentages were coloured and white people.

“I suggested these demographics should be taken into account.

“I further said we were all oppressed, meaning both blacks and Indians, but not at the same level, in terms of understanding the hardships and experiences of each community.”

Judge Madondo said he’d apologised repeatedly to Judge President Patel, his colleagues on the bench, various legal organisations and “anyone affected by them” for the way his comments had been (mis)interpreted, but they continued to haunt him to the extent that they had overshadowed his contribution as a jurist.

“My judicial credentials are clear and my work ethic and my contribution to the empowerment of disadvantaged people. I work around the clock, as is evident from the number of reported cases behind my name. But there is no hint of these things … that worries me.”

Judge Madondo also expressed concern that the recent contest between him and Judge Mokgohloa for the post of deputy judge president was subverted into a “voting

exercise” instead of the normal nomination procedure that ought to be followed.

The result was that the playing field was “uneven”, and the nominees were not judged on merit and on their credentials, but rather on their apparent popularity based on the number of signatures under their name.

He was referring to the fact that two senior judges, supported by 12 others, nominated Judge Mokgohloa, while only three judges who supported his nomination.

This created potential for division, he said, In the circumstances, it was right that the JSC did not recommend either nominee.

Judge Mokgohloa adopted a cautious approach, saying only that she accepted the JSC’s decision. “I was honoured to be shortlisted.”

She confirmed she had the support of 14 fellow judges, but said she did not know what role this played.

Neither would say if they would accept nomination to the position again.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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