'Reluctant' Malema confronts SCA judge candidate over EFF/Trevor Manuel defamation case

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Julius Malema.
Julius Malema.
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  • Julius Malema questioned Judge Elias Matojane over his decision to award Trevor Manuel R500 000 in damages.
  • Matojane said he could not second-guess the decision that was going to be made by the Constitutional Court. 
  • The SCA candidate also spoke passionately about modernising the justice system. 

A "reluctant" Julius Malema, a member of the Judicial Service Commission, on Wednesday questioned Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judge candidate Elias Matojane over his decision to award Trevor Manuel R500 000 in damages in a defamation case against the EFF.

Matojane, in 2019, found against the EFF, ruling that the party pay the former finance minister R500 000 for claiming he oversaw a "corrupt" process to appoint South African Revenue Service commissioner, Edward Kieswetter.  

The EFF took the case to the SCA, which referred the determination of the possible sanction to another court. There now has to be a trial to decide the award.

READ | ConCourt candidate claims SCA 'top six' treated colleagues unfairly

Manuel took the case to the Constitutional Court and wants the cost order reinstated. 

Malema, who is also the leader of the EFF, admitted he was "reluctant" to ask the question because he was an interested party in the matter. 

Malema said: 

The quantum was referred back to oral evidence. How did you arrive at the conclusion that it was appropriate for you to award R500 000 without any of the parties leading any oral evidence?

"I know that Manuel is now appealing to the Supreme Court, but the SCA has referred that matter back to you and said there must be oral evidence led - so that whatever figure you arrive at is on the basis of that oral evidence."

Matojane, who is applying for a seat on the SCA, answered: "Mark Twain said nothing spoils a good story than the arrival of an eyewitness. This matter is pending before the Constitutional Court and I don't think the chief justice [Mogoeng Mogoeng] is interested in my musings, so my simple answer to you, Mr Malema, is that I cannot second-guess the decision that is going to be made by the Constitutional Court. 

"The matter is now out of my hands. I have said what I had to say and, if the SCA has upheld me, we don't know what the chief justice is going to say. I am constrained to be seen as second-guessing what the decision of the Constitutional Court might be."  

Malema responded: "Fair enough."

Modernisation of the court 

Matojane also spoke about his passion for modernising the justice system:

At the Johannesburg High Court, we run a paperless court system. We are able to conduct trials at home. It makes the court accessible to poor people.

He said the court was able to continue with cases, even during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

In his interview, Judge Billy Mothle, from the Johannesburg High Court, was asked about the inquest he led into the death of activist, Ahmed Timol.

Mothle overturned a 1972 ruling, that Timol died from suicide, and ruled it as murder. Apartheid police officer Joao Rodrigues was charged.

"I realised early on there was no precedent to follow. I knew that every step I was taking was setting a precedent. I took my time with everything."

ALSO READ | CR17 bank statements: SCA candidate asked: 'Are you a corrupt judge?'

He said some of the challenges of the case were that witnesses had died and documents were missing. The key to the case, he said, was the magistrate's ruling in the original Timol case. 

"Once this case was on, people approached the high court to open inquests for their family members. We had to explain to them that the decision can only be made by the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority]."

Mogoeng said Mothle treated the inquest with "great wisdom and dignity".

Mothle, who has over 40 years of experience in the legal fraternity, said he applied for the position because he wanted to retire at a higher court.  

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