‘Transformania’ – Judge Motha engaged in judicial overreach, says FMF Rule of Law Project

FMF Press Release (Law Justice 1)

Blaai af vir Afrikaanse weergawe.

12 March 2024

“Judicial officers must always observe the constitutional imperative of non-racialism in both their judgments and their conduct in the courtroom.” – Martin van Staden, FMF Head of Policy

The Free Market Foundation (FMF) and its Rule of Law Project condemn the inappropriate use of the judicial power by Gauteng judge Mandlenkosi Motha, who in February sought to have the lawyers in a matter before him account for the racial composition of their teams.

South Africa has a history of social engineering on racial grounds, which the Constitution doubly prohibits through its commitment to non-racialism in section 1 and its prohibition on racial discrimination in section 9.

Even the most generous interpretations of section 9 of the Constitution cannot yield a requirement that legal teams appearing before our courts structure themselves racially, as Judge Motha’s instructions strongly imply. Instead, section 9 states that everyone is equal before the law and entitled to equal protection under the law.

“Judge Motha directed the counsel representing the parties to explain, in heads of argument, why there was no black African counsel on their team. This request was bizarre, seeing that there is currently no legal requirement that litigating teams be of a particular racial makeup,” says FMF Policy Officer, Zakhele Mthembu LL.B.

Brand SC’s memorandum rightfully described the overreach of the judge. Questioning the racial makeup of the counsel in the matter before Judge Motha, when it had nothing at all to do with the case, was inappropriate.

Transformania 

The FMF is furthermore disheartened by the stances taken in recent days by some legal practitioners and by entities like the Law Society of South Africa, who should be protecting the integrity of the profession but are instead supporting the judge. 

“The law society, bar councils, and other professional legal associations should be defending their peer, Johan Brand SC. Judge Motha, unfortunately, was countenancing the ‘transformania’ policy of the incumbent government, rather than giving effect to constitutional prescripts,” says FMF Head of Policy, Martin van Staden LL.M. 

“The Constitution certainly cannot be read to direct citizens and organisations in this country to choose only legal representatives of a certain skin-colour,” says Van Staden. 

“Brand SC and his fellow counsel were so directed for no reason other than the colour of their skin. Had they been born looking different, the judge would not have discriminated against them in this fashion,” added Van Staden. 

Impartial and objective

“Just 40 years ago, if an advocate responded to our courts the way Brand SC did, it would have been rightly met with cheers,” says Mthembu. “That Brand SC’s conduct would have been moral in 1984 but is regarded as contemptuous in 2024, is incoherent.”

“I don’t want the judge in a matter I may be involved in, directing the advocate who was briefed by the attorney I chose, to be questioned about their race and why I did not choose representatives of a different race. If a client wants an all-black legal team, they should have the latitude to do so, same as a client that would require an all-white legal team,” says Mthembu.

“Demographic coincidences, furthermore, like ending up with an all-black or all-white, or all-male or all-female, or all-Christian or all-Muslim, legal teams, should not become a matter of contention, especially by the ‘impartial and objective’ courts. When a legal team is voluntarily chosen by the client, it is an exercise of the client’s constitutional rights, not a violation thereof,” added Mthembu.

“The health and success of our constitutional democracy depends on the ability to criticise those in power when it is warranted, including judges. Brand SC should not be punished for doing exactly that,” concludes Mthembu.

Ends.

Press enquiries

Anneke Burns
FMF Publicist
0714230079 | press@fmfsa.org

***

‘Transformanie’ – Regter Motha betrokke by oorskryding van regterlike amp, sê FMF Rule of Law Project

Scroll up for English version.

12 Maart 2024

“Regterlike beamptes moet altyd die grondwetlike imperatief van nie-rassigheid in ag neem in beide hul uitsprake en hul gedrag in die hofsaal.” – Martin van Staden, FMF Beleidshoof 

Die Vryemarkstigting (FMF) en sy Rule of Law Project veroordeel die onvanpaste gebruik van die regterlike mag deur Gauteng-regter Mandlenkosi Motha, wat in Februarie gepoog het om die regspraktisyns in ‘n saak voor hom te laat verantwoording doen vir die rasse-samestelling van hul spanne.

Suid-Afrika het ‘n geskiedenis van sosiale ingenieurswese op rasgronde, wat die Grondwet in dubbele mate verbied deur sy toewyding tot nie-rassigheid in artikel 1 en sy verbod op rassediskriminasie in artikel 9.

Selfs die mees vrygewige interpretasies van artikel 9 van die Grondwet kan nie ‘n vereiste oplewer dat regsverteenwoordiger-spanne wat voor ons howe verskyn, hulself rasgewys struktureer nie, soos wat Regter Motha se instruksies sterk impliseer nie. In plaas daarvan, stel artikel 9 dat almal gelyk voor die reg is en geregtig is op gelyke beskerming onder die reg.

“Regter Motha het die advokate wat die partye verteenwoordig opdrag gegee om, in hoofde van argument, te verduidelik waarom daar geen swart Afrikaan advokaat op hul span was nie. Hierdie versoek was vreemd, aangesien daar tans geen regsvereiste is dat litigasie spanne van ‘n spesifieke rasse-samestelling moet wees nie,” sê FMF Beleidsbeampte, Zakhele Mthembu LL.B.

Brand SC se memorandum het die oorskryding van die regterlike amp akkuraat beskryf. Die vraag na die rasse-samestelling van die advokate in die saak voor Regter Motha, toe dit absoluut niks met die saak te doen gehad het, was onvanpas.

Transformanie 

Die FMF is verder ontsteld oor die standpunte wat in die afgelope dae deur sommige regspraktisyns en deur entiteite soos die Regsvereniging van Suid-Afrika ingeneem is, wat die integriteit van die professie behoort te beskerm, maar in plaas daarvan die regter ondersteun. 

“Die Regvereniging, die balies, en ander professionele verenigings behoort hul kollega, Johan Brand SC, te verdedig. Regter Motha het helaas die ‘transformanie’ beleid van die huidige regering gesteun, eerder as om gevolg te gee aan die grondwetlike voorskrifte,” sê FMF Beleidshoof, Martin van Staden LL.M. 

“Die Grondwet kan beslis nie gelees word om burgers en organisasies in hierdie land te rig om slegs regsverteenwoordigers van ‘n sekere velkleur aan te stel nie,” sê Van Staden. 

“Brand SC en sy mede-advokate is dus vir geen ander rede as hul velkleur met so ‘n instruksie belas nie. Indien hulle toevallig anders gebore was, sou die regter nie in hierdie wyse teen hulle gediskrimineer het nie,” het Van Staden bygevoeg.

Onpartydig en objektief 

“Net 40 jaar gelede sou só ‘n reaksie teen ons howe, soos dié van Brand SC wel was, tereg met toejuiging ontmoet word,” sê Mthembu. “Dat Brand SC se optrede moreel sou wees in 1984 maar in 2024 as minagtend beskou word, is onsamehangend.” 

“Ek wil nie hê dat die regter in ‘n saak waarin ek betrokke mag wees, die advokaat wat deur my prokureur instruksies gegee is, oor hul ras en waarom ek nie verteenwoordigers van ‘n ander ras gekies het nie bevraagteken nie. As ‘n kliënt ‘n al-swart regspan wil hê, moet hulle die ruimte hê om dit te doen, net soos ‘n kliënt wat ‘n al-wit regspan vereis,” sê Mthembu. 

“Demografiese toevallighede, soos om met ‘n al-swart of al-wit, of al-manlik of al-vroulik, of al-Christen of al-Moslem regspanne te eindig, behoort ook nie ‘n twispunt te word nie, veral nie deur die ‘onpartydige en objektiewe’ howe nie. Wanneer ‘n regspan vrywillig deur die kliënt gekies word, is dit ‘n uitoefening van die kliënt se grondwetlike regte, nie ‘n skending daarvan nie,” het Mthembu bygevoeg. 

“Die gesondheid en sukses van ons grondwetlike demokrasie is afhanklik van die vermoë om maghebbers te kritiseer wanneer dit regverdig is, insluitend regters. Brand SC behoort nie gestraf te word omdat hy presies dit gedoen het nie,” sluit Mthembu af. 

Einde. 

Persnavrae

Anneke Burns
FMF Publisiteitsbeampte
0714230079 | press@fmfsa.org

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