Despite being accused of taking hard cash and sexual favours in exchange for giving a magistrate a job, one of the country’s most senior magistrates remains serving in his post.
City Press ’ sister newspaper, Rapport, can today reveal that investigators are asking for permission to lay charges against one of the country’s nine regional court presidents in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca).
Eric Nzimande, the regional court president of KwaZulu-Natal, has remained in his post despite the fact that a complaint against him was laid more than a year ago.
Nzimande frequently serves as an acting judge in the high court. He stands accused of offering a female magistrate a job in exchange for cash and other alleged favours.
Godfrey Ramoroka, secretary of the Magistrates’ Commission, confirmed that there was an investigation into Nzimande.
But Ramoroka refused to answer any questions about the case, claiming it was sub judice, even though the case against Nzimande was not before the court.
Nzimande is the head of the regional court, which sees the majority of the country’s serious criminal cases, including corruption, commercial crime, murder and rape.
The allegations against Nzimande stem from an explosive email sent to the minister of justice and to the Magistrates’ Commission by a former acting regional court magistrate in Nzimande’s province, Thinake Lindelwa Gumede. In the email Gumede makes the following allegations:
- Nzimande approached her when she was still acting as magistrate in the district court and offered her a post in the regional court.
The minister appoints acting magistrates on the advice of regional court heads and chief magistrates in district courts.
In return, Gumede was allegedly expected to make regular payments to Nzimande or to “loan” him money.
Gumede’s first three-month stint was in March 2012 and she provided bank statements to the commission to show that she had paid Nzimande R30 000 in the first month alone.
Gumede also allegedly has proof in the form of emails, more bank statements and recordings that show she was subsequently forced to make further payments. It is understood that the total amount of payments to Nzimande for which Gumede has proof is R140 000.
- On at least one occasion, she had to sit on Nzimande’s lap while he told her that he would not renew her three-month acting magistrate’s contract if she did not agree to have a sexual relationship with him.
He also allegedly sent Gumede a picture of his genitals via SMS.
Her contract was subsequently not renewed, but Rapport understands but Rapport understands that the Magistrate’s Commission had been investigating Gumede for alleged misconduct at the time. The investigation was abandoned as she wasn’t re-appointed.
Nzimande, who also received Gumede’s complaint, reacted to the allegations by saying he was “shocked” and couldn’t immediately comment.
When Rapport on Thursday asked Nzimande if he was prepared to react to the allegations against him, he said: “The Magistrates’ Commission is currently conducting a preliminary investigation, therefore I cannot comment on the matter.”
This preliminary investigation had already started in the third term of last year, when two magistrates were appointed as investigating officers.
Johannesburg’s chief magistrate, Eddie Mashile, and senior magistrate Theresa Swart, of Germiston, have obtained a sworn affidavit from Gumede and have also seized a laptop which was believed to contain evidence against Nzimande.
Sources close to the investigation said the laptop had not been accessed yet because they “do not want to contaminate evidence” and rather wanted to involve the police as soon as possible.
In May, Mashile and Swart requested permission from the Magistrates’ Commission to report the matter to the police because the law required that even a suspicion of corruption be reported. “They specifically said, this is not just a suspicion. There are bank statements and other material that have to be analysed,” one source said.
The Magistrates’ Commission met again at the end of May and in August, but the investigators had still not received any feedback on their urgent request, sources said. Rapport has confirmed that the minutes of both meetings do not mention the investigatiors’ request.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who is the head of the judiciary in terms of amendments to the Constitution made by the Constitution’s 17th Amendment Act, has not responded to various requests for comment from Rapport over a period of more than a month.
Nathi Mncube, his spokesperson, this week referred all queries to the Magistrates’ Commission.