Suspended BLA president's urgent application struck from the roll, with costs

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An urgent application by suspended BLA president Mashudu Kutama was struck off the roll.
An urgent application by suspended BLA president Mashudu Kutama was struck off the roll.
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  • An urgent application by suspended BLA president Mashudu Kutama was struck off the roll.
  • Kutama was suspended on 3 June following allegations of misconduct.  
  • The BLA received complaints against Kutama from women in the Student Chapter. 

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has struck off the roll, with costs, an urgent application brought by the suspended president of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), Mashudu Kutama.

Judge Ingrid Opperman delivered her judgment on Wednesday morning after hearing submissions from the parties.  

The BLA national executive committee (NEC) suspended Kutama on 3 June following allegations of misconduct.

The organisation had received complaints from women in the BLA Student Chapter.

"In my view, this application is manifestly not urgent. The NEC has stated on more than one occasion that an independent investigator is going or has been appointed and that the investigation is going to take 30 days from the days of the appointment of the investigator. It seems the investigation has, in fact, commenced," Opperman said.  

READ | Black Lawyers Association president was suspended based on 'highly disturbing' allegations

Opperman said a punitive cost order against Kutama was justified.

The judge said he was only placed on a precautionary suspension, but rushed to court, with no regard for the complaint's seriousness.

Opperman added that Kutama's replying affidavit was also "demeaning and aggravated his unacceptable nonchalant attitude towards the situation".

"Today, in court, this attitude was persisted with when it was submitted on his behalf that there exists a political conspiracy against him, run by other men."

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, representing the respondents, earlier argued that the case should be struck from the roll.

He said allowing Kutama to obtain an interim order or to get an urgent hearing would be "harmful, not just to the BLA as an organisation, but to what the BLA stands for. It is also harmful to the public interest".

Ngcukaitobi added: 

In October this year, the BLA will be sitting at the Constitutional Court interviews; it will be choosing our judges. It is not in the interest of either the BLA, its members or the public at large, that an organisation of significance, such as the BLA, should have a president who is accused of being a sexual predator.

"At some point, the sexual predation must come to an end. The abuse of power must come to an end," he said.

Ngcukaitobi further said Kutama had displayed an "arrogant attitude".

ALSO READ | Suspended BLA president says complaints against him are 'Hollywood-like movie script fabrications'

"He produced zero evidence that BLA's functions under its constitution have not been able to be undertaken. In fact, now that he is out of the way, it is only now that the BLA can cleanse itself of this suspicion."

He said: 

The fact that the president faces these allegations brings about disrepute to the BLA. The best option is [to] put him aside and focus on the investigations. If he is cleared, come back; if he is not, then he should not have been a member in the first place.

He said if Kutama was reinstated and granted an urgent application, it would be "harmful to the victims of sexual harassment who have been bold enough to come through with their identities disclosed".

"It is harmful to the public interest, particularly as per the ruling made by the Constitutional Court, that you have to take a hard line on sexual predation because it is perpetuating gender-based violence. The case is not urgent; the case ought to be struck. It also might be that you actually want to dismiss the case. This case illustrates an abuse of processes," he said.

Meanwhile, advocate Sydwell Sikhwari, for Kutama, said: "We all are [aware] that sexual harassment is something very serious, but we should guard against dealing with matters of sexual harassment on the say-so of the complainant. Simply because there is a complaint, then the accused person must automatically step aside."

He also said the applicant was never invited to make submissions on suspension, but was invited only to make submissions on leave of absence.  

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