Dewani trial judge accused of bias

Shrien Dewani

Western Cape Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso has been accused of misconduct in Shrien Dewani’s trial because she was an “Afrikaner” and a former “apartheid prosecutor”.

She was therefore “predisposed towards showing hostility against the black prosecutor, who was up against the all Afrikaner defence team”.

These claims are contained in a complaint non-profit organisation the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) has lodged with the Judicial Service Commission, which confirmed yesterday that it had received the complaint.

British businessman Dewani was accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010, but he was discharged last month after the prosecution closed its case.

HETN wants the commission’s judicial conduct committee to recommend the establishment of a judicial conduct tribunal to consider the allegations against Traverso.

The committee, which considers complaints, is chaired by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and includes Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and four other judges.

Any person may lodge a complaint about a judge with the committee chairman. The committee may dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous or lacks substance, or may recommend the appointment of a tribunal in respect of impeachable complaints.

HETN claimed that Traverso contravened the provisions of the Judicial Norms and Standards when presiding over the Dewani trial. One of the norms requires judicial officers “to be courteous and responsive to the public and accord respect to all with whom they come into contact”.

HETN chairman Lucky Thekisho said Traverso failed to afford the state a fair hearing.

In his affidavit before the commission, Thekiso said Traverso failed to disclose her friendship with the defence counsel.

Thekisho said her hostility towards the prosecution manifested itself in a number of ways.

He said she treated the defence team with courtesy but repeatedly harassed the prosecution team by subjecting it to aggressive and unpleasant interrogation.

“Through her repeated demeanour, she sought to intimidate, undermine and speak down to the prosecution,” Thekisho said.

-Ernest Mabuza

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