Remove Motata from bench, says rights group

Judge Nkola Motata must be removed from the bench, the civil rights group AfriForum said on Wednesday after a Johannesburg magistrate found him guilty of drinking and driving.

“AfriForum will ask the Judicial Service Commission [JSC] to go ahead with steps against Judge Nkola John Motata,” its chief executive Kallie Kriel said in a statement.

“There is no reason why disciplinary action against Motata should not follow urgently, now that the allegations of racism and drunk driving against Motata have withstood the test of the court,” he said.

Magistrate Desmond Nair found Motata guilty of being drunk at the wheel of his car when it crashed into the perimeter wall of a Hurlingham property on January 6 2007.

He acquitted Motata of a second charge of obstructing or defeating the ends of justice or alternatively resisting arrest, explaining that he could not find criminal intent on Motata’s part to obstruct justice, but rather that he was just “difficult and quarrelsome” because he was drunk.

He found that homeowner Richard Baird’s audio recording of the incident captured Motata making racial slurs.

The sentencing procedure starts on September 9.

Kriel said AfriForum submitted a complaint against Motata to the JSC in 2008, but was told it would be held back pending the outcome of the court case.

He believed a judge should be able to act in the interest of all communities without any prejudice and that any judge who guilty of racist conduct—as Motata seemed to be—had no right to be a judge.

“A judge like Motata violates the public’s confidence in the legal system and AfriForum will justifiably object if Motata were ever to act as judge in any case where AfriForum may be involved,” he said.

Kriel said the court ruling vindicated Baird, who was himself accused during the trial of being a “biased” witness who made “disturbing racist remarks”.

AfriForum would provide him with legal advice to call to order his accusers, he said.

Kriel hoped the JSC would treat Motata’s racist remarks with the severity they deserved and that the case would not be “simply swept under the carpet”.

He found it unacceptable that Motata had continued receiving a monthly salary of R57 000 during his leave of absence, in spite of the misconduct charge against him.

The prosecution said earlier on Wednesday that it too felt vindicated by the guilty verdict.

“The decision to prosecute has been vindicated,” said state prosecutor Zaais van Zyl.

Motata’s defence counsel Bantubonke Tokoto said he would only make a decision on whether or not to appeal once everything was finalised.

On the judgement, Tokoto said: “We will have to consider it.”
 
He said the defence was happy that Motata was acquitted on the charge of resisting arrest.

Asked for comment, Motata said he was well but “you’ll never hear anything from me”.

The National Prosecuting Authority was pleased with the judgement, said acting spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga.

“Justice was not only done, but manifestly seen to be done,” he said.—Sapa

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