KZN regional court president’s disciplinary hearing under way

Eric Nzimande, KZN’s Regional Court president

Eric Nzimande, KZN’s Regional Court president

Published Jan 29, 2024


Durban — After a delay of more than five years, the disciplinary hearing of KwaZulu-Natal’s regional court president, Eric Nzimande, began this week.

Nzimande is facing more than 162 charges relating to allegations of improper conduct.

Eric Nzimande, KZN’s Regional Court president

Some of the allegations relate to him using his position of authority to siphon bribes from lawyers aspiring to act as magistrates, which the Magistrate’s Commission viewed as not “promoting the good name and dignity of the office he held”.

Nzimande pleaded not guilty to all charges and attorney Ravindra Maniklal, Nzimande’s legal representative, readied himself to make his opening submissions on Tuesday.

But the State attorneys representing the commission asked for an extension and the chairperson, Jeremiah Shongwe, a retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge, approved.

Proceedings on Thursday dealt with the intervening application brought by Saving the Wild, an anti-poaching organisation, before the adjournment of the hearing to March 4.

Advocate Samantha Martin presented Saving the Wild’s bid for observer status and the opportunity to make submissions at the end of proceedings.

The commission’s representatives and Maniklal did not object.

Saving the Wild’s Jamie Joseph with movie star Margot Robbie. | SUPPLIED

Saving the Wild’s founder, Jamie Joseph, made initial allegations against Nzimande by publishing their “Blood Rhino Blacklist”, claiming he was a kingpin in a “cabal of crooked” lawmen who had subverted justice to protect those linked to poaching and other criminal activities.

Joseph garnered support for the cause through the worldwide publication of an open letter to the South African government via the BBC, which called for action against Nzimande and others. Sir Richard Branson, Dr Jane Goodall, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and local musician Vusi Mahlasela were among those who endorsed the letter.

The Sunday Tribune revealed in November that Hollywood actress and Barbie star Margot Robbie would begin production this year on a movie delving into Joseph’s allegations.

In its application, Saving the Wild said its purpose was to expose wildlife crime and “assist the administration of justice and environmental justice”.

It maintains that it is not an “armchair observer” but has been actively involved since 2016, and claimed to have exposed several alarming issues regarding Nzimande’s role, which has since attracted local and international media and public interest.

Therefore, its bid to take up a position similar to an “amicus curiae” (friend of a court) was in the best interests of justice and met certain constitutional imperatives.

Insight to the 162 charges Nzimande faced was read into the record on Monday. They related to how he:

  • Wrongfully took R140000 from an aspirant magistrate;
  • Had money between January 2012 and October 2016 from an individual who held the positions of clerk of the court, prosecutor and regional court prosecutor at various times paid into his bank account;
  • Requested a loan from an attorney for his child’s university fees;
  • Associated with an accused in a criminal matter; and
  • Visited a local casino during working hours on various occasions between 2003 and 2014.

Maniklal, in a letter to the commission in April 2021, stated that Nzimande had waited patiently for proceedings to get off the ground, while privileged case information was leaked to the media, to his detriment.

“We are instructed to record our client’s repeated displeasure surrounding the media leaks,” read the letter.

Sunday Tribune