25 January 2019
Commuter activist group #UniteBehind has lodged a complaint against sitting Gauteng High Court Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele. The group accuses her of breaching the Code of Judicial Conduct’s “separation of power” clauses, by having been chairperson of the interim board of the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (PRASA) while also serving as a Gauteng High Court judge.
The complaint filed with the Judicial Conduct Committee of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is signed by #UniteBehind secretariat member Zukiswa Fokazi. It is divided into two parts: one is criticism of her occupying the two positions at the same time and the second is criticism of her conduct while at PRASA, which GroundUp reported last year.
According to the complaint, Makhubele was nominated by the JSC for appointment as a judge of the Gauteng High Court on 4 October 2017. On 17 October she was appointed PRASA chairperson. On 2 November, President Zuma appointed Makhubele as a judge, with a start date of 1 January 2018.
After this announcement, #UniteBehind raised concerns with the JSC about the conflict of interest the two positions would pose and questioned the rationality of appointing her to the chairperson position following her nomination for the high court.
Although Makhubele asked for a high court start date of 1 April — as revealed in emails obtained and cited by #UniteBehind in its affidavit — her position on the high court was effective from 1 January 2018, according to the activist group. Her name officially appeared on the court roll on 5 February 2018.
Makhubele continued in her position at PRASA until 16 March 2018.
During her time as chairperson, Makhubele was also accused of disrupting litigation procedures inside PRASA. In November 2018, the Pretoria High Court found that Makhubele had instructed PRASA’s lawyers not to defend the company against legal action that resulted in R56 million being seized from PRASA (the money eventually had to be returned to PRASA). In its scathing judgment the court wrote that Makhubele “ought not to to undertake any judicial duties until she clears her name of the allegations against her”.
And in February 2018 the Sunday Times accused Makhubele of pushing for a R500 million investment into VBS Bank “without any agreement being signed”.
#UniteBehind is calling for the impeachment of Makhubele on the grounds of violating the “independence of the judiciary”, as well as for her conduct while at PRASA.
The JSC acknowledged receipt of the complaint on 21 January 2019 and forwarded it to the Judicial Conduct Committee.
Nathi Mncube, spokesperson for the Judiciary, told GroundUp that Makhubele cannot comment on the matter until she has been invited to do so by the Judicial Conduct Committee when it processes the complaint.
CORRECTION: Some of the dates in the original article were wrong and have been corrected.