Cape Town -
A judicial Conduct Committee lambasted two bodies which lodged separate complaints against Western Cape Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso over her conduct in the trial of British businessman Shrien Dewani, describing the allegations levelled against her as “frivolous” and lacking in substance.
Racial attacks against her “undermine the integrity and oath of office” she had taken, and “tend to undermine the respect and dignity accorded to the judiciary of this country”, the committee found
The decision, by Judge Presidents Monica Leeuw and Mahube Molemela, relate to complaints lodged by the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) and campaign group Justice4Anni.
Justice4Anni accused Judge Traverso of bias, and compiled what it called “a dossier”, which included tweets from journalists and news feeds, collated by some of the campaign group’s members who attended court proceedings.
The HETN also accused the deputy judge president of bias, which it said “materially and substantially” contravened the provisions of the Judicial Service Commission Act and the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In an affidavit, HETN chairman Lucky Thekisho said Judge Traverso failed to afford the State a fair hearing, and failed to disclose her alleged prior relationship and friendship with the defence counsel.
The network claimed she was predisposed to showing hostility to the black prosecutors who were up against an all-Afrikaner defence team, and made personal attacks on her, saying that she came from Afrikaner descent.
The Judicial Service Commission set up a Judicial conduct committee, which included the judges president, to decide whether or not the allegations should be formally investigated.
However, the committee this week dismissed the complaints and did not take the personal attacks on her lightly.
“The racial attacks on the person of Madam Justice Traverso by the HETN, which suggest that she was influenced by her background as a South African who is Afrikaans-speaking, are unwarranted. The allegations are not substantiated by any facts and offend the spirit and purports of the bill of rights. The further complaints based on race undermine the integrity and oath of office taken by Madam Justice Traverso,” they said.
The judge presidents added that while Thekisho had a right to express his opinion on the performance of a judge, he did not have the right to insult a judge and make snide remarks.
They found that several of the complaints were not substantiated by reliable facts, and were not borne out by the record of Dewani’s trial.