IN a blow for suspended Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, Judge Nana Makhubele, the Judicial Conduct Tribunal into a misconduct complaint against her, yesterday refused yet another postponement requested on her behalf.
The hearing was postponed last year over outstanding legal fees, said to run into more than R3 million.
Leader of the tribunal, retired KwaZulu-Natal Judge President, Achmat Jappie, was yesterday told by advocate Vincent Maleka SC, that the State Attorney’s office agreed to pay the outstanding legal fees and all future legal fees relating to the hearing.
But Maleka explained that as he has not yet been paid, he took other clients in the meantime and was not available to proceed with the case at this stage. Maleka said he will only be available at the end of February.
He told the tribunal that he and his team had been working on this case for more than a year during which they were not being paid.
But in light of the promises made that the state will pay the outstanding fees, he was prepared to see the matter to the end as it was “of public interest.”
According to Maleka, all the invoices were sent to the office of the Chief Justice, who in the end will make the payment if the invoices were given the all clear.
Judge Jappie made it clear on November 13, when the matter was postponed to yesterday, that that was the very last postponement.
In refusing yet another postponement, Judge Jappie said that he made it very clear that the matter will resume whether Judge Makhubele had legal representation or not.
He gave her until Wednesday to sort out her legal woes and ordered that shebe at the hearing at 10am. Judge Jappie noted that the only evidence still outstanding was that of Judge Makhubele.
Judge Makhubele meanwhile addressed the tribunal and said she noted that she was given about 72 hours to “sort herself out”.
“I will consider my position,” she said. While she cannot ask for a further postponement before this tribunal, she might turn to “another forum”, she said. But she will let the tribunal know before tomorrow what she will be doing, she added.
As things stand now, she is due to start with her version of events tomorrow.
The tribunal postponed the matter in August to November, also due to matters relating to her legal fees.
Judge Makhubele, a former board chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), is facing a misconduct investigation which could lead to her impeachment.
The investigation arises from a complaint filed by civil society organisation #UniteBehind three years ago.
It claims that Judge Makhubele violated the separation of powers principle by serving both as a judge and chair of a state-owned company.
She is said to have served on the Prasa board from October 19, 2017 to March 16, 2018.
Counsel for #UniteBehind, the complainant, at the start of the hearing in February, told the tribunal that Judge Makhubele’s conduct rendered her unfit to hold office. It was said that #UniteBehind’s case did not simply hinge on the date when she became a judge.
Judge Makhubele has denied wrongdoing, saying she had already resigned as Prasa chairperson when she was sworn in as a judge at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
It is claimed that she improperly served as chairperson while she acted as a judge, and that she was at the time involved in litigation between Siyaya Rail Solutions and Prasa.
She was interviewed by the JSC for appointment as a judge of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on October 5, 2017. On that same day, the JSC announced that Makhubele was one of six candidates recommended as judges in Gauteng.
Two weeks later, on October 19, 2017, then-transport minister Joe Maswanganyi appointed Judge Makhubele as chairperson of Prasa’s board “until further notice”.
On November 2, 2017, the Presidency confirmed that then president Zuma had appointed her as a judge, to start on January 1, 2018.