No explanation for why a judge has taken 19 months to rule in vital court matter

Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi of the Gauteng High Court reserved judgment in February 2021

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Judges are supposed to hand down judgments within three months of them being reserved. A judge in Pretoria has not handed down a judgment that was reserved in February 2021. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

  • Zeal Health Innovations took the Department of Military Veterans to court for allegedly failing to pay more than R15-million in invoices.
  • The matter was heard at the Pretoria High Court in February 2021. Judgment was reserved on 21 February 2021.
  • Nineteen months have since passed and Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi has still not handed down a judgment in this case.
  • The Office of the Chief Justice has not responded to our request for comment on why this judgment is so late.

This week we ran an article on late judgments across South African courts. At the end of December 2021, nationally there were 156 court judgments outstanding for at least six months, and 830 reserved judgments outstanding in total.

One example of a late judgment from this list is a case involving a dispute between the Department of Military Veterans and a health services company. The company claims the department failed to pay it for providing medical care and counselling to military veterans in 2015.

The matter was heard at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria on 8 and 9 February 2021, and judgment was reserved by Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi on 21 February 2021. Nineteen months later, she has still not delivered judgment on the matter.

The company, Zeal Health Innovations, took the department to court over non-payment for healthcare services it provided to military veterans from June to August 2015. More than R15-million is being disputed.

The department, in response, filed an application challenging the validity of the R200-million contract its officials signed with Zeal Health.

Although the judicial norms and standards state that judgments should be handed down within three months of being reserved, GroundUp has used a more lenient six-month benchmark and has been reporting late judgments since 2017.

According to the last available list on late judgments, published at the end of December 2021, the Pretoria High Court had ten judgments more than six months late, of which the matter between Zeal Health and the Department is the second longest outstanding judgment. The longest outstanding judgment at this court was reserved just a month earlier on 26 January 2021 by Judge Natvarlal Ranchod —nearly two years ago.

According to a previous list, at the end of September 2021, the Pretoria High Court only had three late judgments. This means the number of late judgments more than tripled within just three months.

We asked the Office of the Chief Justice for comment on why Judge Mngqibisa-Thusi has not yet delivered judgment in the matter involving Zeal Health Innovations and the Department of Military Veterans but, despite providing ample time, have not received a response.

Since the list was last updated on 31 December 2021 (and is based on an honour system in which judges are expected to report their reserved judgments), we are uncertain of whether there are further cases that have been outstanding for such a long period of time.

TOPICS:  Late judgments

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