One of the country’s top judges has questioned Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s tacit claim that he approved the appointment of a lawyer facing misconduct charges to a tax board panel.
Gauteng High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, speaking through Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s spokeswoman Lulama Luti, told The Sunday Independent that top Tshwane attorney Nano Abram Matlala was not on the list he sent to National Treasury for appointment to the panel.
The panel comprises a pool of legal practitioners from which chairpersons of income tax appeals are drawn.
Gordhan’s spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane initially said the minister was legally obliged to consult with the judge president on the names of candidates to be appointed to the panel.
“With regard to the matter you refer to, the relevant judge-president would have been that of the North and South Gauteng High Court (Mlambo). The Ministry of Finance will consult further on this matter with the judge-president of the North and South Gauteng High Court,” Sikhakhane said.
However, Luti said: “I can confirm that the judge president was consulted on the list of possible candidates for recommendation to serve on the tax board. However, Mr Matlala’s name was not on the list of names that the judge-president sent.”
Contacted later, Sikhakhane said he would not comment further.
Matlala, a former Law Society of South Africa co-chairman, was appointed on August 19 for a five-year term.
In a letter sent to The Sunday Independent, the Law Society of the Northern Provinces confirmed it was investigating Matlala’s conduct. “The investigations in regard to the alleged conduct of Mr Nano Matlala are still proceeding and have not been finalised,” said the law society’s disciplinary department head, Magdalene Malatji.
Malatji said the investigations were considered confidential.
Matlala was hired a few weeks before national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega’s botched appointment of Major-General Mondli Zuma, which she rescinded a few hours after announcing it last Saturday.
The probe relates to a referral by Pretoria High Court Judge Brian Southwood in a September 2011 judgment, in which he said there were “serious allegations that he had told deliberate untruths” in court against Matlala.
Matlala has previously denied he was untruthful in any manner in the evidence he presented before court.
In June, Matlala’s bid to evade another disciplinary hearing was dismissed by the Pretoria High Court.
He had wanted the charges he was facing set aside and the hearing ended before it had even started.
The charges relate to a complaint by Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo, who invited Matlala to act as a judge in the Johannesburg High Court from October 2010.
Matlala accepted the invitation, but later changed his mind, telling Mojapelo he was no longer available, but the deputy judge president had already allocated cases.
Mojapelo declined to release Matlala and wrote to him, saying he expected him to report for duty.
But Matlala never responded and did not avail himself for the stint on the Bench, after which Mojapelo complained to the law society. In court, Matlala said Mojapelo was not authorised to appoint him, and that he had not broken any law by not taking up his position as an acting judge.
Matlala did not respond to The Sunday Independent’s questions this week, despite numerous requests.
Matlala worked with one of the country’s top legal brains, George Bizos, at retired Judge Joos Hefer’s commission investigating claims that ex-national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy and whether he had abused the National Prosecuting Authority. - The Sunday Independent