Judge President Mlambo insists former Meyiwa trial judge Tshifhiwa Maumela did not do any ‘heavy lifting’

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela. Picture: Screengrab/TV

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela. Picture: Screengrab/TV

Published Mar 18, 2024


Judge President Dunstan Mlambo has insisted that between 2012 and 2021, Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela had a history of outstanding judgments despite not doing much of the “heavy lifting” as compared with other judges.

Judge Mlambo was testifying during the first sitting of the Judicial Conduct Tribunal Hearing for Judge Maumela held at Rosebank, Johannesburg, yesterday.

In June 2023, Judge Maumela and Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi were suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa for failing to deliver numerous reserved judgments within a reasonable time.

The Judicial Service Commission recommended that both judges be suspended and a judicial conduct tribunal established to consider complaints that they had failed to deliver numerous reserved judgments in the stipulated time frames.

In taking the stand, Judge Mlambo told the hearing that during this time Judge Maumela was predominantly allocated to criminal trials; however, he was never allocated special motions which were the heaviest to deal with.

In fact, he told the hearing that at the very best Judge Maumela was only allocated two opposed motions per year as opposed to other judges who had to deal with two per term.

He said this was a similar track with urgent court matters, which he said Judge Maumela rarely had a huge caseload to deal with.

“My view sitting here is that he actually had a very accommodative allocation of cases. I can find no justifiable reason why some of those judgments would have been referred to, some even up to four years or so. Especially when you factor in that we have recess periods, which are meant for judges to catch up on outstanding work.”

When asked if there were any occasions where Judge Maumela explained the delays or sought an indulgence to make arrangements for judgments to be delivered at a later date, the judge president insisted Judge Maumela never came to alert him to any problems.

He further detailed an instance dating back to when Judge Maumela was stationed at the Thohoyandou High Court and still battled with submitting judgements on time.

“I can tell the commission I was shocked when I woke up one day and received a number of complaints from parties demanding judgments and he was doing duty in the Thohoyandou High Court. I tried getting a hold of him and I would send emails, or try to call him but he would not come back to me.

“When I eventually met him in Pretoria through the assistance of the senior judge there at the time, there were 28 judgments outstanding and he said to me his laptop had crashed. I was surprised to say but if your laptop crashes that does not mean you can sit back and do nothing.”

Judge Mlambo said it was only after attempting to reach out to Judge Maumela, that he decided to advise litigants to seek the assistance of the Judicial Services Commission by laying a complaint.

He said this advice proved to be futile as many legal counsels voiced fear of victimisation, hence he took the “bold” decision to lay the complaints himself.

The judge president said, however, this was not unique to Judge Maumela as he constantly received emails from judges sitting in appeals complaining about judges not responding to communication.

“It was never my intention to be a complainant against a judge, we work together. However, that is my default position once I have tried to engage the judge to get the judgment and not getting it.

“It was only when these judgments accumulated that I decided to be bold and refer a complaint myself as JP of division and I even had consulted the two DJPs at the time,” he said.

The tribunal will proceed up until March 20.

The Star

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