Pretoria - The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) asked a Pretoria High Court judge supposed to hear an urgent interdict against it to recuse herself on Tuesday.
HETN has lodged a case in the Equality Court against the University of Pretoria, Tuks Alumni and AfriForum attorney Willie Spies, claiming black alumni were being excluded.
Spies in turn lodged an urgent application against HETN in the High Court in Pretoria, claiming it had embarked on a public campaign aimed at defaming him and harming his reputation.
HETN has publicly condemned Spies's appointment as chairman of the Tuks Alumni Board, claiming he was responsible for the deliberate exclusion of black alumni from the organisation's management structures.
Spies alleged that HETN was deliberately and wrongfully sending false information about him into the world which portrayed him as a racist, and a violent and lawless person.
HETN wrote a number of letters to High Court in Pretoria Judge President Dunstan Mlambo asked for Judge Cynthia Pretorius's removal from the application and the appointment an “objective judge”.
In one of the letters, HETN chairman Lucky Thekisho said AfriForum's legal victories in the high court had led it to the assumption that there was judicial sympathy from white judges for the AfriForum-allied Vereniging van Regslui vir Afrikaans (VRA) .
In a press statement on Tuesday morning, HETN condemned “the unfair, subjective conduct and concerted attempt by high court Judge Cynthia Pretorius to unfairly prejudice the HETN's legal defence” in the interdict application.
HETN said in the statement Pretorius was a member of Tuks Alumni as a graduate of the University of Pretoria, and was “already prejudiced” against its attempts to include the participation of black alumni in the university's Tuks Alumni, headed by Spies.
On Tuesday, Pretorius wanted to know from HETN's lawyer if the organisation was trying to blackmail or coerce her.
Subongile Nxumalo, for HETN, said the organisation's freedom to express its opinion was protected by the Constitution.
Quintus Pelser, for Spies, said the press statement and letters were a clear indication of contempt of court.
He urged Pretorius to refer the conduct of HETN and its members to the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal prosecution, and the conduct of Thekisho Ä an admitted attorney Ä to the Law Society.
Pelser said there was no substantiation for HETN's allegations of bias against Pretorius.
He said if the judge's membership of Tuks Alumni was limited to being enrolled as a member, her membership was of no consequence.
Pelser argued that the letter asking for the appointment of “an objective judge” was contemptuous of the whole division.
“They put themselves on a pedestal to judge who is objective and who is not,” he said.
He pointed out several incorrect facts in HETN's press statement, including claims that Pretorius and the Judge President had already refused the recusal application.
“On your decision rests the honour of the division. Your ladyship should not succumb to these type of threats,” he said.
Pretorius will give a ruling in the recusal application on Wednesday. - Sapa