Judge Mabel Jansen to face impeachment tribunal over Facebook comments

Pretoria High Court Judge Mabel Jansen must face a tribunal to investigate whether her statements on Facebook about race and black culture amounted to impeachable conduct, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has decided.

In a 2015 Facebook discussion on the public page of film maker Gillian Schutte, Jansen made a series of comments, including that 99% of the criminal cases she heard were of “black fathers/uncles/brothers raping children as young as five”.

She said: “Want to read my files: rape, rape, rape, rape, rape, rape of minors by black family members. It is never-ending.” In private direct messages — later publicly released by Schutte — Jansen said that in black culture, “a women is there to pleasure” men, that women tell their children it is their father’s birthright to be the first, and that gang rapes of baby, mother and daughter were a “pleasurable pass time”.

The comments were met with a public outcry and a gross misconduct complaint was laid against her, saying that no black man accused of rape could have the comfort that Jansen would treat his case impartially.

READ MORE: ANC: High court Judge Jansen must be ‘banned’ from court

On Friday the JSC’s spokesman CP Fourie confirmed that the commission had decided that a Judicial Conduct Tribunal – which looks into potentially impeachable conduct – was warranted and that the JSC would ask Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to establish one in terms of the JSC Act.

A tribunal to deal with the complaint against Jansen had already been recommended by the JSC’s judicial conduct committee. The committee is the first stop for complaints against judges.

In February, it said that “Jansen’s statements suggest that she may harbour certain preconceived biases and potentially at least not be able to bring an open and impartial mind to bear when determining matters that come before her involving a particular sector of our society”.

READ MORE: Don’t be surprised by Mabel Jansen – rape myths pervade South African courts

But its decision had to be confirmed the full JSC. The tribunal will also still have to await the outcome of a court case brought to the Constitutional Court by Pretoria Judge Nkola Motata.

Motata, who faces a tribunal himself, has challenged the constitutionality of the disciplinary provisions in the Judicial Conduct Committee Act – which has meant that all tribunals had to be put on ice.

The JSC was meeting this week to interview candidates for appointment to various courts. 

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Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

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