‘Confused’ judge Motata may soon face impeachment


By Tsoanelo Sefoloko, GroundUp

Retired judge Nkola Motata could become the first South African judge to be impeached.

The Court of Appeal ruled this week that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was wrong when it found at the time that Motata was only guilty of misconduct – and not gross misconduct – when he crashed into a wall 15 years ago under the influence of drink.

In a majority ruling on Thursday, the court found that the RCD had completely disregarded the effect that Motata’s racist comments – which he made at the scene of the accident – had on people’s trust in the judiciary.

Motata was criminally prosecuted after the incident in 2007 and found guilty of drink driving in 2009 in the Johannesburg High Court.

However, the RCD did not follow the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s recommendation at the time and placed him in a state of impeachment. Instead, he was fined R1.5 million.

Motata has since retired with full benefits.

However, the Court of Appeal has now instructed that the DRC begin formal steps to impeach Motata – retired or not – after the pressure group Freedom Under Law approached the court.

Motata crashed into a wall in January 2007 when he tried to make a u-turn under the influence of alcohol. The owner of the property arrived on the scene shortly afterwards and made a video of the judge’s drunken and racist tirade.

Motata has consistently denied that he was drunk and claims that he was “provoked” at the scene. However, the allegation was later rejected in his trial before the Johannesburg High Court and his trial before the tribunal.

The Court of Appeal further found that the RCD and the High Court both also failed to consider the effect on the public after Motata was still allowed to be known as “Judge Motata” and continue to receive his pension benefits as a retired judge.

“Judge Motata could of course have apologized for his actions at any time, but he did not,” reads the latest ruling.

“It appears that, even after the completion of the criminal trial, he failed to realize that he was involved in misconduct of an extremely serious nature. It reveals his lack of insight and his lack of understanding of the effect of his misconduct on public confidence in the judiciary.”

The court also found that not only was Motata’s behavior shameful, his actions at the scene of the accident were also “characterized by racism, sexism and vulgarity”.

This report is originally published on GroundUp and used here with permission.