The grainy surveillance footage picks out Thabo Mbeki at the bar. The former South African president appears pensive. At his elbow, just out of the frame, another man pours himself a glass of red wine.
”So the Boer, the Jew, the Irishman and the Indian walk into a bar, and the barman says: ‘What is this, a fucking joke?’,” says the man to Mbeki’s left.
ZA NEWS CCTV November 20, 2009
The man off-camera is Judge Nkola Motata and yes, it’s an episode of ZA News, the satirical, web-only take on South African politics.
The video surveillance tape purports to have been taken on the evening of January 5 2007, after which Judge Nkola Motata then drove his Jaguar into the wall of a house in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.
But back to the bar.
Mbeki begins to quote from the WB Yeats poem The Second Coming: ”A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun …”
Motata: ”Hey what the fuck are you on about?”
Mbeki: ”It is something that Yeats wrote. He’s my favourite, you know Judge.”
Motata: ”Yeats? Fuck him. What does he know?”
Mbeki: ”Bartender, give me the bill, I think I must go now …”
Motata: ”Hey, where’s that fucking barman? [shouts] Hey, maburu, move your arse and get us another bottle of this red … Hey I would say to you fuck you too, I do not care about you and anyway I must go drive into a wall now.”
In reality, this is exactly what happened — in the early hours of January 6 2007 he drove his car through the wall of a suburban property. Luckily, homeowner Richard Baird had the presence of mind to record Motata’s rantings with his cellphone.
The Mail & Guardian subsequently took a careful listen to the tapes, and reported that Motata can distinctly be heard saying to bystanders in SeSotho: ”All of you, let me tell you, my brothers and sisters — these people should not catch us. Let us live, we are the majority and this is our land. It is not the land of the boers [maburu] even if they have big bodies. South Africa is ours, we rule it.”
The tapes, described as ”indistinct” in court transcripts at Motata’s drunken-driving trial, show that the judge uttered racial slurs; tried to arouse the racial sympathy of black bystanders; threw his weight around; swore repeatedly, including at police officers; and tried to get away from the scene of the accident.
A Johannesburg magistrate later found him guilty of drunken driving and sentenced him to a R20Â 000 fine or a year in jail.
The convicted North Gauteng High Court judge may now struggle to stave off a Judicial Service Commission hearing on his possible impeachment for racism and other serious misconduct.