Parliament has been asked to lift the suspension of an Umlazi regional magistrate, suspended for allegedly being “lenient” to a rapist, in order for her to reconstruct the court record relating to the case she presided over.
The request for lifting Kholeka Bodlani’s provisional suspension is on condition that she only deals with reconstruction of the record of the case that is on appeal.
This emerged when Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola wrote to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on lifting the provisional suspension of Bodlani from office.
The National Assembly had passed a resolution on her provisional suspension in March after the National Council of Provinces passed a similar resolution in September 2020.
The suspension followed a quality assessment of her work which revealed serious irregularities and shortcomings, resulting in a number of cases being sent on special review due to incompetent sentences composed by her.
In his letter, Lamola said he received a recommendation from the Magistrates’ Commission that Bodlani’s provisional suspension be lifted on certain conditions.
“The acting regional court president, KwaZulu-Natal, on March 29, 2023 addressed an email to the commission requesting that Ms Bodlani’s provisional suspension be lifted in order for her to attend to the reconstruction of a court record relating to a case over which she presided.
“The accused in the matter filed an appeal in the KwaZulu-Natal division of the high court,” he said.
Lamola said the high court had in May 2022 made an order that “the court a quo must reconvene with a view to reconstruct the record pertaining to the outstanding evidence with reference to the presiding officer’s notes”.
The order went on to state that Bodlani should, among other things, record the responses and attitude of the prosecutor and the appellant to the evidence recorded in the notes, which must be read in the record and a typed copy attached to the reconstruction proceedings.
The minister said the Magistrates’ Commission recommended that Bodlani's suspension from office be lifted in order to comply with the high court order and pending the conclusion of the inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Magistrates’ Commission chairperson AP Ledwaba had asked that Bodlani only deal with the reconstruction of the record of the Umlazi Regional Court in the matter between the State and Clement Mbuso Ndlovu to comply with the court order.
One of the conditions for uplifting her suspension was that she should not be assigned any other case to deal with and that she must not conduct herself in a manner that compromised the integrity of the judiciary and bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Lamola said there was precedent to the upfliting of the provisional suspension of a magistrate.
“Parliament in 2013, uplifted the suspension of Mr PS Hole, a former magistrate in Kimberley, to complete part-heard matters on certain conditions following a recommendation by Legal South Africa and the National Prosecuting Authority, as well as an application by Childline in the high court.
“I support the recommendation of the Magistrates’ Commission,” he wrote in his letter dated November 29, 2023. The letter was tabled in Parliament's communication known as Announcements, Tabling and Committees (ATC) on Tuesday. It is now set to be referred to the justice and correctional services portfolio committee for consideration and reporting to the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces for passing.
Attempts to reach Bodlani were unsuccessful.