Judge slams police for defying a court order

Police Minister Bheki Cele was dragged to court after police defied court order. Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/African News Agency (ANA)

Police Minister Bheki Cele was dragged to court after police defied court order. Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 17, 2023


Durban — A high court judge has lashed out at the police for undermining the judiciary system of the country after police defied a magistrate's order.

In a scathing attack in the North Gauteng High Court, Judge Joseph Raulinga accused police of second-guessing the magistrate’s court order where the court ruled that police hand over Willah Mudolo’s passport to him after amending his bail conditions.

After several attempts to reason with the police to return his passport, Mudolo dragged Police Minister Bheki Cele, police official Corneus Maritz and the National Prosecuting Authority to the high court demanding an explanation for why the police were withholding his travel document despite the court's ruling.

Delivering the judgment last week, the judge reminded the police that courts derive their powers from the Constitution and the relevant legislation that establishes them.

“One is therefore incensed by the attitude of the respondents who chose to impose their own in relation to the magistrate's order. They seem to have forgotten that the judicial authority of the Republic vests in the courts, thus making courts final arbiters in all legal disputes. Court orders can never be disobeyed even if they were wrong. As long as they have not been set aside, they must be obeyed. Therefore it is my considered view that the respondents acted in flagrant disregard of the magistrate’s court order. This conduct desired to be punished with an order of punitive costs”, said the judge in his ruling.

Police had second-guessed the judgment, saying that it was ambiguous because there was nowhere in the ruling where the magistrate said the passport must be handed over to the accused. The judge hit back, saying their argument was spurious and the interpretation of the court order by the respondents was misplaced and misleading.

The judge said there was no confusion in the magistrate's order, which read as follows:

“Accused No 1 and No 2's bail condition not to travel outside of the borders of South Africa is amended in that they can travel outside of the borders of South Africa on condition that the investigating officer is informed in writing of their intended travel 14 days prior to their departure, they must furnish the investigating officer with proof of their confirmed accommodation booking as well as return flights 7 days prior to their departure and return them to the investigating officer.”

The judge further said the order was crystal clear, adding that in fact, the magistrate was careful to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation.

“One is further annoyed by the respondents' misrepresentation to the applicant that a notice of an application for leave to appeal had been filed in terms of Section 18 of the Superior Court Act 10 of 2013. I am in agreement with the applicant's counsel that court orders are binding to all parties involved in that. If any party ignores them, they do so at their own peril,” concludes the judgment.

Mudolo, a Zambian national, was arrested with his wife in 2020 and charged with money laundering. He is the president of African Development Funding.

The Department of Police had not yet responded to the questions by the time of publication.

Daily News