Justice minister wants JSC to deal swiftly with judges behaving badly
Thabo Mokone | 2017-05-17 14:44:56.0
Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
Image by: Gallo Images
Justice minister Michael Masutha has criticised how the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) handles complaints against judges and he now wants to take up the issue with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Speaking to journalists ahead of tabling the R1.9 billion budget allocated to the Office of the Chief Justice in the National Assembly‚ Masutha said there were complaints against judges that remained unresolved‚ ranging from delayed judgments and gross misconduct to racist remarks.
The JSC‚ headed by Mogoeng‚ is constitutionally mandated to discipline judges who behave badly.
Masutha bemoaned the fact that some of the unresolved complaints were as old as “over a decade”.
“The commission is seized with a number of complaints against judges‚ which have taken time to complete. This requires that we engage with the Chief Justice and the judiciary to look at the effectiveness of the current complaints handling remarks.
“There’s been complaints against judges that are still on the roll‚ if there’s such a concept‚ that date back over a decade‚ unresolved because of legal disputes around the institutional arrangements to process such complaints‚” said Masutha.
A complaint of gross misconduct by 10 justices of the Constitutional Court against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe‚ filed in 2008‚ and another one against Judge Nkola Motata stemming from drunk driving charges in 2007‚ are among some of the long outstanding complaints before the JSC. But Masutha did not directly refer to these matters.
The delays centred around court challenges questioning the lawfulness of the tribunals that had been set up by the JSC to probe the complaints.
Memme Sejosengwe‚ the Secretary-General in the office of the Chief Justice‚ said there were 54 complaints against judicial officers in the last financial year alone (2016/17).
“There’s 54 complaints that have been received between the period April 2016 to March 2017‚” said Sejosengwe. “Of those 37 were finalised and 17 are outstanding.”
Masutha said as part of government efforts to ensure judicial accountability‚ all judges in active service had complied with the legal requirement of declaring their registrable financial interests to the Office of the Chief Justice.
“All judges in active service by 31 March 2017 have complied with the requirement period for disclosure‚ except one who could not do so because she was ill disposed‚” he said.
Masutha said transformation of the judiciary was still on the government’s agenda.
“Out of the 246 judges in active service‚ 159 (66%) are male and 87 (34%) are female of which 160 (65%) judges are black and 86 (35%) judges are white.”