South Africa

A LAW UNTO HIMSELF?

Calls for Dali Mpofu to be removed from Judicial Service Commission following chief justice interviews

Calls for Dali Mpofu to be removed from Judicial Service Commission following chief justice interviews
Commissioners Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Dali Mpofu at the interviews for the position of Chief Justice in Sandton on 1 February 2022. (Photo:Felix Dlasngamandla/Daily Maverick)

‘While the conduct of a number of the commissioners is subject to severe criticism and censure, we are particularly perturbed by the behaviour of Mpofu SC, whose performance was unacceptable,’ said the association’s chairperson.

The Pretoria Society of Advocates has called for Dali Mpofu, who is a Judicial Service Commission (JSC) commissioner, to be recalled because of his behaviour during the JSC interviews last week.  

Marc Leathern, the association’s chairperson, made this call to the JSC in a letter sent to it on Monday, following last week’s JSC interviews for the next Chief Justice. 

“While the conduct of a number of the commissioners is subject to severe criticism and censure, we are particularly perturbed by the behaviour of [Dali] Mpofu SC whose performance was unacceptable. It began with an attempt at levity in the interview of Supreme Court of Appeal President [Mandisa] Maya which was sexist, condescending and has been described in the press as ‘puerile’ and ‘a male commissioner’s lewd double entendre’. [Leathern then made reference to Rebecca Davis’s article on this]. The discomfort and embarrassment caused was obvious,” wrote Leathern.  

Mpofu, who is one of 23 commissioners, was appointed to the JSC by the General Council of the Bar (GCB). 

The Bar has two representatives on the JSC. The Bar appoints one commissioner, while the organisation Advocates for Transformation nominates and appoints another commissioner.  

During Maya’s interview, Mpofu “winkingly insinuated to the JSC that he and the judge had once ‘spent a night together’ – studying, he eventually clarified”. Mpofu had also asked Judge President Dunstan Mlambo about allegations of sexual harassment against him.  

“This rumour was raised and questioning persisted without an iota of evidence or detail being presented,” wrote Leathern. 

After repeated questions about the sexual harassment allegations, which Mlambo denied, Xola Petse, who was chairing the interviews, eventually ruled that the questions about the sexual allegations would be struck off the record. 

Mpofu’s actions, Leathern wrote, “brought the GCB and the profession in general into disrepute. 

“The political activities and allegiances of Mpofu SC are well known. As a commissioner representing the GCB in particular and the profession in general, his duty is not to promote his political views, but rather the interests of the profession and to do so in a respectful, dignified, objective and professional manner. In this Mpofu SC has fallen short,” wrote Leathern.  

Concluding his letter, Leathern wrote: “The Pretoria Society of Advocates is a constituent Bar of the GCB and as such calls upon the GCB to do whatever is necessary to recall Mpofu SC as a commissioner serving on the JSC. In addition, we call on the GCB to issue a statement deprecating the manner in which the interviews were conducted and disassociating the GCB from the actions and statements of Mpofu SC.” 

In a statement released on Tuesday, the General Council of the Bar of South Africa said it had been inundated by objections to the conduct of the interviews and in particular, that of Mpofu SC, towards Mlambo and Zondo, and his inappropriate comments directed at Maya. It said it had been requested by a number of constituent bars and individual members to seek the replacement of Mpofu SC on the JSC and was in discussions with Advocates for Transformation (on whose nomination Mpofu SC serves on the JSC) to that end.

Last week’s interview and Saturday’s announcement that the JSC had recommended Maya, the only woman candidate among the four judges, to become the next Chief Justice, drew criticism from legal organisations.  

Nicole Fritz, the Helen Suzman Foundation’s executive director, told Daily Maverick that the organisation was considering its legal options because the “process was unfair”. 

“The process allowed irrationality and unfairness. Our position is that the President doesn’t even need to consider the JSC’s recommendation – if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be acting unlawfully.” 

Fritz said the JSC’s job was not to recommend a judge but to compile a report for the President to consider as to whom the most suitable candidate is. DM

 

[hearken id=”daily-maverick/9072″]

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Craig B says:

    He interviewed himself.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      He is a ventriloquist … and loves to hear himself ! Which is why he goes off on those long-winded and meaningless soliloquys in court … trying to impress himself . Psychopathic in the extreme !

  • virginia crawford says:

    He is an odious individual and a disgrace to the Bar. And my question to Advocates for Transformation: Really? That’s the best you can do? You insult yourselves by nominating this buffoon.

  • Margaret Jensen says:

    Truly shameful that Mpofu represents two august organisations Surely members of these are appalled

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      That is an unfortunate assumption you make ! August organisations – you must be kidding !
      Appalled … only if they have any modicum of integrity … and you can be sure many on those bodies are ‘fans’ of his buffoonery. Have a close look at them and you will find the majority, like him are probably misogynistic males in various guises , or too scared to tell him like it is ! How else would they have nominated such an obvious peacock as their representative. As for his announcement of their preferred candidate on the ostensible grounds of gender transformation … should have red flags flying at high mast! Coming from one who tells a female advocate to ‘shut up’ in open court in the presence of a judge, and tries to belittle her with the ‘junior’ counsel jibe … is clearly unfit for office, let alone leadership . That the judge in that instance did not demand an instant apology at least, was most unfortunate. Behaviour like that should be met with severe sanction followed by removal from the profession/office.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    This disgraceful episode should reveal if the GCB has any gumption to follow through … or is just another toothless creature.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      I love the accompanying picture of both male and female peacocks doing their ‘stuff’. Congratulations to the photographer who captured this airheadedness … for posterity ! Remarkable what kind of people CR is surrounded by … stuck between a rock and a hard place … some might say.

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