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Motata house crash victim fights back, plans to sue former judge

2019-10-13 17:53

Nkola Motata, a former judge who was convicted of drunk driving in 2009, can expect a summons from the owner of the home he drove into while intoxicated in 2007.

Richard Baird on Friday told City Press’ sister publication Rapport that he plans to sue Motata over “false allegations” that he called Motata the K-word on the night of the incident.

Baird’s alleged provocation of Motata was one of the main reasons the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) this week decided to overturn the findings of the tribunal, and to give Motata a fine instead of impeaching him.

Motata was found guilty of drunk driving in the Johannesburg High Court in 2009 and was sentenced to a fine of R20 000 or 12 months imprisonment.

The JSC appointed a tribunal under former Judge Achmat Jappie to investigate the complaints against Motata from AfriForum, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and a senior advocate.

The tribunal found Motata had behaved in a racist manner at the accident scene and was guilty of gross misconduct. He had also behaved in a manner unbefitting of a judge by maintaining that he was not drunk – despite all evidence to the contrary.

The tribunal recommended that Motata be impeached and that he should be stripped of all salary and retirement benefits afforded to judges.

But the JSC has the final decision, and decided to contradict the tribunal this week.

Baird said the JSC’s decision was a slap in the face.

“It’s contemptible that the JSC has now used Motata’s untruths in which he depicted me as a racist to exonerate him,” Baird said.

He will now take civil steps to restore his reputation. – Johan Eybers

The drunk-driving judge, Nkola Motata, can expect summons from the homeowner Motata has allegedly made out to be a racist.

Richard Baird, a businessman from Johannesburg, on Friday told City Press’ sister publication Rapport that he plans to sue Motata over “false allegations” that he called Motata the K-word 12 years ago.

Baird’s alleged provocation of Motata was one of the main reasons why the judicial service commission (JSC) this week decided to overturn the findings of the tribunal, and to give Motata a fine instead of impeaching him.

This means Motata was a judge for less than seven years, appeared in court over a period of two years as an accused, and thereafter spent nine years at home on full pay. He then retired, with a full salary for the rest of his life.

Motata was found guilty of drunk driving in the Johannesburg high court in 2009 and was sentenced to a fine of R20 000 or 12 months imprisonment.

The JSC appointed a tribunal under former judge Achmat Jappie to investigate the complaints against Motata from Afriforum, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and a senior advocate.

The tribunal found Motata had indeed behaved in a racist manner at the accident scene and had been guilty of gross misconduct.

He had also behaved in a manner unbefitting of a judge by maintaining that he had not been drunk – despite all evidence to the contrary.

The tribunal had already recommended that Motata become the first judge in democratic South Africa to be impeached and that he should be stripped of all salary and retirement benefits afforded to judges.

But the JSC has the final decision, and this weeks decided to contradict the tribunal.

The JSC is chaired by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, but the majority of its members are politicians, among them Julius Malema. In addition, the position for one of the nine judge presidents is presently occupied by John Hlope, of the Western Cape, who is also being investigated by the JSC.

On the matter of the alleged provocation, Jappie found that the Motata’s evidence that he was provoked into making racist statements because he was insulted is not evident from the record of the hearing.

“And the judge at no stage during the exchange of pleadings in these proceedings alleged he was provoked by the ‘k-word.”

Despite this, the JSC on Thursday said Motata’s racially charged comments were improper, but found mitigating circumstances in the fact that the judge was drunk – something he had still denied before the tribunal – and because he was provoked by Baird’s alleged use of the k-word.

In addition, the JSC wiped the charge regarding Motata’s conduct during his criminal case off his slate, because they had found out that the senior advocate who laid a charge against Motata did so at the request of a JSC member. That was improper and unacceptable, said the JSC.

The JSC accordingly found that Motata was only guilty of misconduct, not gross misconduct. For this reason he was only give a fine of R1.1 million, which he must pay within 24 months.

According to the most recent notice published in the government gazette, judges now earn more than R1.8 million per year.

Baird said the JSC’s decision was a slap in the face.

“It’s contemptible that the JSC has now used Motata’s untruths in which he depicted me as a racist in order to exonerate him.”

This is why he will now take civil steps to restore his reputation.

Kallie Kriel, chief executive officer of AfriForum, said they would assist Baird in his case.

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November 10 2019