Judge Makhubele hearing postponed because of outstanding legal fees

“Millions” owed for the judge’s legal representation

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The Judicial Conduct Tribunal considering the allegations against Judge Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele has been postponed to 13 November. Photo: Masego Mafata

  • The tribunal looking into the conduct of Judge Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele has been postponed to 13 November due to her outstanding legal fees.
  • Her legal representatives say they have not been paid a cent by the State Attorney.
  • The hearing has dragged on for more than three years.
  • Judge Makhubele has approached the Solicitor General to resolve the issue.

The Judicial Conduct Tribunal against Judge Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele has been postponed to 13 November. This comes after a request by her legal representatives to postpone the sitting, due to outstanding legal fees.

The tribunal, which was adjourned in May this year, resumed in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Tuesday, 1 August. The hearing was set to begin at 10am but only started around 1pm, following meetings between Makhubele’s attorneys and the tribunal leaders.

Makhubele’s attorneys had written to tribunal chair, retired Judge President Achmat Jappie, on 20 July requesting the postponement.

The tribunal into Judge Makhubele’s conduct follows activist group #UniteBehind’s complaint to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in 2019. The complaint accused Judge Makhubele of misconduct when she took up the dual roles of Gauteng High Court judge and chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) interim board, violating the separation of powers principle of the Judicial Code of Conduct, and also of further misconduct while she was on the PRASA board.

The tribunal consists of retired Judge Jappie, retired Judge Seun Moshidi, and practising attorney Noxolo Maduba-Silevu.

According to attorney Eric Mabuza, Judge Makhubele’s legal representation has not received “even a cent” from the State Attorney since taking up the matter in December 2020. During Tuesday’s proceedings, Judge Makhubele’s legal representation was without advocates Vincent Maleka and Mfundo Salukazana, who have acted as her legal counsel in previous sittings.

Addressing the tribunal, Mabuza said the situation between Judge Makhubele and the State Attorney was not a “dispute”. Instead, he said, they have “not heard communication from the State Attorney”, which has prevented them from “securing counsel to proceed with this matter.”

Mabuza told journalists that he could not disclose the exact cost of Judge Makhubele’s legal representation, but “it must be in the millions”. He said two invoices had already been sent to the State Attorney regarding this matter.

#UniteBehind has made several calls for Judge Makhubele’s legal costs to be made public.

Judge Moshidi asked whether it would be possible to receive feedback on the issue of legal fees payment before the resumption of the tribunal.

Judge Makhubele, whose evidence was due to be heard on Tuesday, said she had contacted the Solicitor General, with whom she had spoken two weeks ago. She assured the tribunal that she would follow up.

The Solicitor General is responsible for managing the offices of State Attorneys as well as managing litigation by government departments and parastatals.

Mabuza said Makhubele’s legal team would provide the tribunal and evidence leaders with feedback by 29 September 2023.

Evidence leader advocate Elaine Zungu said that despite a pre-trial conference in November 2022, the issue of outstanding legal fees had only come to the fore now. While it was unfortunate that the tribunal was being postponed, Zungu said, it was important for Judge Makhubele to have legal representation.

Judge Jappie stressed the need to conclude the hearing, saying they had hoped to submit their findings to the JSC in October, which would no longer be possible.

“The adjournment is simply to allow Judge Makhubele to sort out whatever she needs to sort out with her legal representation. But, come 13 November, the tribunal will sit and proceed with whatever evidence is available,” he said.

“This has been going on for more than three years and we would like to complete whatever the tribunal has to do and take our report to JSC as soon as we can,” said Judge Jappie.

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