‘I believe I was insulted', says chief magistrate

2019-10-09 16:07
Chief magistrate Mpho Evelyn Monyemore.

Chief magistrate Mpho Evelyn Monyemore.

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Pietermaritzburg’s chief magistrate has testified that she believes that her colleague Divesh Mootheram spoke about her in an insulting way despite not hearing the actual words from him. 

The trial is being heard in the city’s regional court before magistrate Eric Vellem, who was brought in from the Eastern Cape to preside over the case without possible bias.

Mpho Evelyn Monyemore said she first heard that magistrate Mootheram allegedly called her a “corrupt black bitch”, from another magistrate, “Mr Narayansamy”, who is now based out of the province. The utterances allegedly took place on April 11, 2017.

Monyemore only charged Mootheram on June 13 that year. Monyemore was cross-examined at length by Mootheram’s advocate Shane Matthews.

Some of his questions focused on why Monyemore did not lay a charge against Mootheram sooner. Matthews suggested to her that she only laid the charges because Mootheram had complained to the Magistrates Commission about her and another magistrate, Ashin Singh, in May 2017.

The complaint by him included an allegation that Singh had breached security by hiring an outsider for administrative work, and she did nothing about it.

The court has heard evidence that when Mootheram found out about this “breach”, he became angry and allegedly insulted Monyemore. This is what gave rise to him being charged.

Monyemore denies she only charged Mootheram after he complained to the commission.

After her testimony the presiding magistrate (Vellem) said he wanted to clarify some of her evidence.

He questioned her about whether she had in fact charged Mootheram after he complained to the commission. Monyemore replied by saying: “I had the intention to charge him.”

She thereafter agreed with Vellem that she did not act on her intention at the time and said it was because of all her other engagements.

Vellem also asked her how it came about that she obtained statements from three magistrates who say they heard Mootheram’s utterances on April 11, 2017. He said he needed to know, “because it appears to be key an issue to the defence”.

Monyemore explained that when she heard about Mootheram’s alleged insults she had intended to send an e-mail to all the magistrates who were present in the tearoom and get information about what happened.

But then she said she was made to understand that there were some magistrates who were “not willing to come forward”.

Monyemore said the three magistrates who had made the statements did so “out of their own accord”.

She said she had not asked any magistrate to come forward because she believed whoever knew about the incident would do so.

Vellem asked: “At some stage you say you called them to your office in order to make a report. I want to make it clear how they made the report.”

Monyemore continued: “I wanted to send an e-mail calling for an incident report. In the same breath I was divided.” She added that the three magistrates who implicate Mootheram, and another who didn’t hear the utterances were invited by her to come and see her. “They came one by one to my office,” she said.

Monyemore said she asked them to give her an incident report.

Asked what became of Mootheram’s complaint to the Magistrates Commission, Monyemore said she has been exonerated. However, because there was “tension in the office” people had been sent to mediate, she said.

Monyemore was also asked by Vellem to explain how the words used by Mootheram demeaned her and affected her family. She said that her two sons had learnt about it and they spoke about it at home.

“That’s why I said my family was also affected.”

The case is expected to continue on Wednesday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hate speech
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