Ingonyama Trust Board chair will not drop title ‘judge’

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Judge Jerome Ngwenya.
Judge Jerome Ngwenya.

Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) chairperson, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, will not be complying with a request from Chief Justice Moegeng Moegeng’s office for him to stop using the title of judge.

In a letter sent to the ITB last week, Moegeng’s office ordered Ngwenya to stop using the title as he was no longer a judge.

However, Ngwenya yesterday told Weekend Witness he did not regard the letter as a legitimate instruction from the chief justice.

“As far as I know the letter is not from the chief justice, it is from officials in his office who sent it to certain ITB officials and not to me.

“Surely, if the chief justice wanted to say something to me, he would have addressed me directly,” he said.

Ngwenya, who was appointed as a high court judge in 2000, later resigned due to personal reasons.

According to the letter, which has since been leaked to the media, Ngwenya was no longer entitled to use the judge title as he had resigned as opposed to retiring.

“Unlike serving and retired judges, when you have allegedly done or said something believed to be unethical, the Judicial Services Commission cannot take steps against you, precisely because you are not a judge.

“It is necessary that only those who are subject to the authority of the JSC are addressed and treated as judges,” the letter said.

Asked whether the letter resonated with his own understanding of the law, Ngwenya declined to respond. “I can’t be asked to respond to something that doesn’t exist. If there is anything which the chief justice wants to say to me he will talk to me directly,” he said.

Last month women rights groups were angered by Ngwenya’s statement that tribal land should be exempted from the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill seeking to empower women to access land.

 The bill came before the Land Reform and Rural Development Portfolio Committee following a recent Constitutional Court ruling that the current legislation violated women’s rights as it only recognised men as family heads.

However, Ngwenya’s controversial statement had not affected his position as chairperson of the ITB as rural development minister Thoko Didiza, who last week reconfigured the board following the expiry of the term of the previous board on August 31, confirmed him as chairperson of the interim board.

The interim board will oversee the affairs of the entity pending the appointment of a new board.

While Didiza had the power to appoint and fire the ITB, she has limited powers over the appointment of its chairperson.

According to the Ingonyama Trust Act, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is the sole trustee of the ITB, appoints an individual of his choice to act as the entity’s chairperson on his behalf.

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