The Black Lawyers’ Association (BLA) wants the office of the Chief Justice to investigate allegations of discrimination among judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
The association had written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng‚ calling on him to remove unethical judges from the judiciary.
“This unpalatable conduct must be investigated to the core and those who will be found to have contravened their oath of office and or contravened the constitutional provisions must face the JSC’s full might through disciplinary measures‚ including possible impeachment‚” the BLA’s regional secretary‚ Lutendo Sigogo, said.
The alarming situation at the SCA was revealed by judges who were being interviewed by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) for senior positions last week.
Acting SCA President Mandisa Maya said judges of different racial groups occupied separate sections of the tearoom they shared at the court.
“If there is any court that needs diversity training‚ it is our court. We simply don’t get along‚” Maya said.
SCA judge Leona Theron became emotional as she spoke of the discrimination she had faced when she first arrived at the court.
“Yes‚ I have been a victim of racism. Yes‚ I have been a victim of sexism‚” Theron told the JSC.
The judges also revealed how female and junior judges were made to feel inadequate by some of their seniors disregarding their input when it came to the writing of judgments.
The BLA’s Sigogo said it was unacceptable that some judges were made to feel inadequate or others superior.
“As BLA we view such acts to have their root cause in racism and unfair discrimination‚” Sigogo said.
“The allegations of racism and discrimination of some judges by others undermines the purpose for which courts are established. Judges are by their nature the principal defenders of our Constitution and they must be seen to do exactly that.”
He stressed that judges needed to work in an environment where they could dispatch justice freely without fear of being undermined by their peers.
He hailed Theron and Maya for bringing the situation to the fore.
“It is of utmost importance that these unacceptable tendencies in the SCA were raised by women because women are‚ in the main‚ subjected to double jeopardy in as far as discrimination is concerned‚” Sigogo said.
During the hearings‚ Mogoeng was shocked by the allegations and questioned why these issues had not been raised before.