The Western Cape high court on Monday granted Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema an order suspending a parliament directive that he apologise for using an interview of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to ask Judge Elias Matojane about an adverse ruling handed down against his party.
Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interests last year ordered Malema to apologise to Matojane for trying to confront him over his ruling ordering the EFF to pay former finance minister Trevor Manuel half-a-million rand in defamation damages.
The deadline for him to do so was Monday.
Malema intends to challenge a report by the ethics committee, which found that he had abused the platform for his political interests and was endorsed by the national assembly.
He approached the court for an urgent interdict suspending the order that he apologise pending the outcome of his legal challenge to the report.
“The implementation of the sanction contained in the report adopted by the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests on 22 November 2021 that ‘the applicant must enter an apology in the house by specifically apologising to Judge Matojane, and the Judicial Service Commission for his question to Judge Matojane during the interviews’ is hereby suspended pending the outcome of the review process’,” Monday’s high court order handed down by acting judge Nolundi Nyati reads.
Nyati gave Malema 20 days to file his intended legal challenge and ordered the speaker of the national assembly and the chairperson of the national council of provinces to pay Malema’s costs in the urgent application.
She has not given reasons for the suspension order.
In court papers, Malema denies that he committed any breach and argues that it was not parliament’s place to sanction him when the JSC itself did not see a need to do so.
The JSC interview with Matojane took place in April last year when he was among the candidates for appointment to the constitutional court.
Malema’s question was among a number of incidents during the set of interviews that prompted the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) to file a high court application asking that the process be set aside because it was irrational and commissioners were allowed reign to pursue political objectives.
In the same set of interviews, Malema also accused high court judge Dayanithie Pillay of having a factional, political agenda.
The JSC later agreed to repeat the interview process in October.
The same conduct informed Casac’s complaint to parliament that Malema had breached the code of ethics. The entity asked that Malema should be withdrawn as a national assembly delegate to the JSC.
Malema has since again come in for criticism for his conduct at the JSC, this time during its interviews in early February with the four shortlisted candidates for the vacant position of chief justice.
He notably raised rumours of sexual harassment against Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, without warning or substantiation. The line of questioning was later deemed unseemly and the lengthy exchange on the subject was expunged from the record of the interview. Mlambo dismissed it as gossip and said it seemed designed to sink his candidacy.
The defamation ruling against the EFF stemmed from a tweet in which Malema alleged that a committee headed by Manuel recommended the appointment of Edward Kieswetter as South African Revenue Service Commissioner because they were related and business associates.
The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld Matojane’s finding that the EFF had unlawfully defamed Manuel.