260514. Cape Town. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille walking next to Western Cape High Court deputy judge president Jeanette Traverso ahead of taking the Oath at the Western Cape Legislature. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus
260514. Cape Town. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille walking next to Western Cape High Court deputy judge president Jeanette Traverso ahead of taking the Oath at the Western Cape Legislature. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

No decision on probe of Judge Traverso

By Fatima Schroeder Time of article published Mar 21, 2015

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Cape Town - The issue of whether the Judicial Services Commission will probe Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso’s handling of the Shrien Dewani murder trial hangs in the balance, after the Judicial Conduct Committee, charged with addressing the complaint, failed to reach a conclusion on Friday.

And this has heartened the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN), which complained that Judge Traverso had been “inept” in her handling of the trial. Late on Friday the organisation said the lack of clarity strengthened its view that there was merit in its allegations.

“They say there was comprehensive engagement on the matter, but that they were unable to reach a decision... We think we’ve got something here,” HETN chairman Lucky Thekisho told Weekend Argus.

JSC secretary Sello Chiloane confirmed the matter was under consideration. A decision would be reached “in due course”.

The HETN alleges Judge Traverso was biased when she presided over Dewani’s trial in which he was accused of the 2010 murder of his wife, Anni, while they were on honeymoon in Cape Town.

Dewani was discharged and acquitted after the State closed its case when Judge Traverso found that the case against him was so weak that he did not even have to answer to the allegations.

No matter the JCC’s decision, Thekisho said they wanted action. If the JCC did not find the allegations worth investigating, the HETN would not hesitate to take the issue to court.

“We are fighting for a strong, fair and independent judiciary,” he said.

Should the matter go to court, the HETN would ask to see Judge Traverso’s written response to the allegations levelled against her, which was before the JCC on Friday.

The HETN entered the fray in January, taking the issue to the JSC, and alleging that Judge Traverso “materially and substantially” contravened the provisions of the Judicial Service Commission Act and the Code of Judicial Conduct.

In an affidavit submitted to the the JCC, Thekisho said: “Judge Traverso fundamentally failed to afford the State, an essential party, a fair hearing. Alternatively, she conducted the trial coloured by marked prejudice against the State. In totality, she undermined the court’s authority and integrity by compromising its public confidence. This amounts to a wilful breach of the constitution, the act and the code.”

He said the deputy judge president had failed to disclose her prior relationship and friendship with the defence counsel.

Meanwhile, a North London coroner is in discussions with the Dewani and Hindocha families about an inquest into Anni’s death.

According to British law, a coroner must investigate all unexplained or sudden deaths of its citizens abroad.

Weekend Argus

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