Suspended Gauteng High Court, Pretoria Judge Nana Makhubele yesterday told the Judicial Conduct Tribunal into a misconduct complaint against her that Deputy Judge President Dunstan Mlambo was well aware of the fact that she was chair of the then new interim Prasa board when she was appointed as a judge.
But, she said, she had asked for a later starting date than January 1, 2018.
Judge Makhubele was adamant that Judge Mlambo already knew in December 2017 that she was on the Prasa board, when she, among others, discussed this with him during a meeting.
According to her, he thus fully knew that she could not take up her position as a judge in January 2018 and that she still had to resign from the board. She said it was later agreed that she would start with her judicial duties on April 1, 2018.
Judge Makhubele said that she had a meeting with Judge Mlambo and Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba in March 2018 where she was told that she would start on April 1, 2018.
Thus, she said, she resigned from the Prasa board on March 16, 2018.
Judge Mlambo, who was the first witness to take the stand before the tribunal, earlier testified that had he known at the time of Judge Makhubele’s appointment as a judge that she was also to be appointed chair of the interim Prasa board, he would have asked the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to take another look at her appointment.
But, he said, by the time he had realised that she served as the chairperson of the Prasa board, the “horse had already bolted”.
According to Judge Mlambo, he only got to know of her position at Prasa in January 2018. He testified that she was secretive about her appointment to the board and only confirmed this to him in January 2018.
By then she was supposed to have commenced with her appointment as judge to the high court in Pretoria, he said.
The tribunal is investigating a complaint by civil society organisation #UniteBehind into allegations of gross misconduct. It claims Judge Makhubele violated the separation of powers principle by serving both as a judge and chairperson of a state-owned entity, Prasa.
#UniteBehind’s allegations against Judge Makhubele include that being the chairperson of the board of state-owned rail agency Prasa while also being a judge, violates both the law and judicial ethics. It also said that while at Prasa, she furthered the interests of a company linked to corruption and state capture, to the detriment of Prasa.
Judge Makhubele had denied all these allegations and was adamant that when she took up her duties as a judge, she no longer had any links with Prasa. She also vehemently denied Judge Mlambo’s evidence that she did not pitch early in January 2018 to take the oath, despite the fact that he had tried to contact her several times to hear where she was.
“I was not expected (at court) on January 1, 2018, to take the oath and no one called me,” she said.
In dealing with the fact that Judge Mlambo had written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the time regarding her future, Judge Makhubele said she was never told to sit at home and do nothing while she awaited the president’s response.
“As a self employed person I needed to pay the bills.,” she said. According to her she wanted to start working earlier as a judge, but Judge Mlambo said without her certificate of appointment she could only be an acting judge.
‘He refused to let me work and the president took months to make up his mind.I don’t think its fair to expect me not to work during this time.”
She said once she got confirmation that she would start as a judge on April 1, she accordingly resigned from the Prasa board.
The hearing is proceeding.