Cape Town – The judge – who openly questioned whether a gardener could understand legal terms, or if a kitchen assistant could interpret the “complications” of the city council’s budget – has recused himself from one of the high-profile cases he had been presiding over.
Western Cape High Court Judge Leslie Weinkove, who also presides over the ongoing contentious Bromwell Street eviction saga, came under fire after he made what had been deemed racist remarks in court last month.
Weinkove stirred controversy when he questioned the evicted residents’ request to be close to crucial amenities when they are eventually forced to vacate Woodstock. “What’s the point of being near a school? What’s the point of them being near transport?” the judge wanted to know before questioning the content of an affidavit submitted by community leader Charnell Commando.
“How does this person, what’s their name, Charnell, know what the cost implications will be on these properties? She doesn’t know what the City’s budget is; she is just a kitchen assistant.”
Weinkove’s comments shocked the packed gallery. Two Cape Town attorneys, who have written formal complaints to Judge President John Hlophe, said their clients perceived the judge’s comments as “racist and classist”.
“Those comments, which essentially are the judge’s view on how he sees black people, upset my clients,” said Barnabas Xulu, an attorney representing the fisheries department in a case regarding transformation in the fishing industry.
Fishing company Viking Shore took the fisheries department to court, reportedly arguing it was “inappropriate” to allocate fishing licences to poor communities partly, allegedly because of their “lack of technical abilities”.
Xulu said because of Weinkove’s comments in the Bromwell Street matter, his clients fear the judge may not preside fairly over the fishing quotas case.
Weinkove has since removed himself from the case, Xulu confirmed yesterday.
Commando said yesterday she would approach the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following Weinkove’s comments, which she said humiliated her.
Meanwhile, Anglican Church leaders have also stepped in, calling on the city council, private developers and courts to help the Bromwell Street residents to find “nearby” alternative accommodation and not to be relocated to Wolwerivier, as proposed by the City.
“It is shocking the poor have to resort to the courts to fight for their democratic right to a home close to their place of work, school, essential services and livelihood opportunities,” they said in a statement.