Magistrate slammed after he refused to provide reasons for acquitting a woman who allegedly lied to get spousal maintenance

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Published Aug 30, 2023


A Bloemfontein Magistrate came under fire for a judgment he delivered without preparation and refused to give reasons why he acquitted a woman who was charged with perjury.

The ex-husband opened the case against his ex-wife after the National Director of Public Prosecutions declined to prosecute her.

The charge arose from an affidavit deposed by the ex-wife in support of her Rule 43 application in which she sought interim maintenance for herself and a minor child pending the finalisation of their divorce.

According to the charge sheet, the ex-wife was accused of intentionally and wrongfully giving false statements under oath in order to get Rule 43 to benefit her.

During the trial, the ex-husband testified that his ex-wife inflated his financial position in order to secure high maintenance.

In response, the ex-wife denied any malfeasance and contended that there was nothing fraudulent or even misleading about the evidence contained in her Rule 43 affidavit.

She further stated that the details she provided were merely estimates and were duly accepted by the court.

After all the evidence was proffered, Magistrate P Bester delivered an “ex tempore judgment”. This is a judgment given without preparation.

“We have got two different versions before court of what happened and at this stage the court cannot decide between the two versions ... If this court at this stage finds that the case against you is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then you are found not guilty and are discharged,” he said in his judgment.

Aggrieved by the decision, the ex-husband filed a request asking the magistrate to provide reasons for the acquittal.

The magistrate’s written response was simply: “Kindly take note that I have nothing to add to my reason given during my judgment.”

This prompted the ex-husband to approach the Bloemfontein High Court to compel the magistrate to provide reasons for his decision.

After listening to the case, Judge Nokuthula Daniso said the magistrate’s failure to render a judgment was a grave lapse of duty.

“What compounds the situation is the magistrate’s refusal to provide reasons when he was subsequently requested to do so. In my view, the magistrate’s conduct is what is aptly described as poor judicial service,’’ she said.

Judge Daniso said the magistrate is compelled to show that he correctly applied the principles of law to arrive at the conclusion which proves that the ex-wife was not guilty.

The judge ordered magistrate P Bester to provide a full judgment as required by the law.

She also held the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services responsible for the cost of the application.