Suspended Gauteng judge Tintswalo Makhubele testified that she agreed with Gauteng High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo in 2017 regarding her position. She said they agreed that she would commence her duties as a judge in April the following year. That was if she got the nod for the position.
On Friday, Makhubele continued with her oral evidence before the judicial conduct tribunal hearing. The tribunal is probing her alleged impeachable conduct.
Accused of holding two positions at state institutions
Makhubele is accused of occupying a position as a judge of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. This while serving as interim board chairperson of the Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
The tribunal is taking place at the Southern Sun Hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Its chairperson is retired Judge President Achmat Jappie. The other tribunal members are retired Judge Seun Moshidi and Advocate Noxolo Maduba-Silevu.
Makhubele told the tribunal that it is not true that she improperly held a dual status position. She denied being a high court judge and interim board chairperson of Prasa at the same time.
Water Tribunal Board notice period
Makhubele said after she sent her application to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in 2017 for the position of a judge in the Gauteng High Court, she had meetings with Mlambo where they both agreed that should she be recommended for the position of judge by the JSC, she can start the role on April 1 2018, so that she can serve proper notice at the Water Tribunal Board where she served as a board chairperson.
“As I was completing my questionnaire for the JSC application, I had meetings with JP Mlambo and I then told him I have a challenge. I was appointed chairperson of the water tribunal in 2015 for a four-year term. It is ending in 2019. I cannot leave abruptly. The tribunal collapsed because the [previous] chairperson left abruptly. I would like to give proper notice. In the event I am appointed a judge, I will not want to start immediately. I would like to give the minster [of water and sanitation] proper notice. A three months’ notice.
“Mlambo said that is not a problem. ‘I can talk to the minister and give you more time’. He gave me four months. We had agreed that he can give me four months. We settled for four months. That is where the 1st of April 2018 comes from. I then went to my [JSC] interview,” said Makhubele.
Secretive about the Prasa position
During his testimony at the tribunal last year, Mlambo said Makhubele was secretive about her appointment as Prasa interim board chairperson. This even after she got a recommendation from the JSC to be appointed as a High Court judge.
Makhubele said she never applied for the Prasa interim board chairperson position.
“Before the [JSC] interviews, there was a neighbour of mine at the time. He said to me that the minister of transport [Joe Maswanganyi] [at the time], I don’t even know him, never met him. [The neighbour] told me the minister was under pressure to appoint boards for all the entities under him. He told me the minister was still putting together permanent boards. So, in the meantime they want to put together interim boards. He asked me if I would be interested.
Never applied for Prasa post
“I said I think I am done practicing [as an advocate] and already filled my application to the JSC. If I am interviewed and successful, I would rather be a judge than still be walking around as a counsel. He said to me ‘give me your CV [curriculum vitae]’. I did not apply for the position. I told my neighbour that I have responsibilities before I join the bench. So, if it [Prasa interim board chairperson position] is not longer than three months, you can take my CV. I then gave him my CV. I never applied for the position,” said Makhubele.
Makhubele’s oral testimony was scheduled for January 22 to January 26, 2024.
The tribunal’s hearings will resume on February 7, 2024, with Makhubele expected to continue with her oral evidence.
Impeachment over double role
Makhubele faces impeachment on a complaint from the civil society coalition #UniteBehind. The coalition argues that after Makhubele was appointed a judge on January 1, 2018, she continued her position at Prasa. The double government role was improper, according to #UniteBehind.
According to the complainant, #UniteBehind, Makhubele was nominated by the JSC for appointment as a judge of the Gauteng High Court on October 4, 2017.
Appointment dates used as proof
Makhubele was appointed Prasa chairperson on October 17, 2017, with a start date of January 1, 2018.
Former president Jacob Zuma appointed Makhubele as a High Court judge on November 2, 2017, with a start date of January 1, 2018.
Makhubele officially began her duties as a judge in June 2018.