South Africa

DAYS OF ZUMA

SCA Judge President Maya drags her heels on Zuma case, raising eyebrows

President of Supreme Court of Appeal Mandisa Maya. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Maverick / Felix Dlangamandla)

Supreme Court Judge President Mandisa Maya’s division — according to the judiciary’s annual report for the 2020/21 financial year — had an 81% finalisation rate, one percent above target.

Judge Mandisa Maya, the soon-to-be-interviewed candidate for Deputy Chief Justice, is known to have run a tight ship and was in fact praised for doing so during the controversial February 2022 interviews by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for the position of Chief Justice. Maya was one of four candidates who faced unprecedented cross-examination.

Maya also found herself at the centre of a storm when she was accused of having repeated an allegation that one of her rivals for the position, Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, had been implicated in a “sexual harassment” saga.

The allegations against Mlambo, which amounted to mere rumour, were made public when JSC commissioners Dali Mpofu and Julius Malema referred to the gossip during Mlambo’s interview on 3 February.

The JSC, a short while later, made only one recommendation to President Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of Chief Justice — that of Mandisa Maya.

It was a suggestion the President ultimately ignored, in the end choosing Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as Chief Justice in the interest of “continuity”.

News of Maya’s silence — or apparent lack of verve in dealing with an urgent matter involving former president Jacob Zuma and directed to her division in March — has raised a few eyebrows.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday 17 May — a holding date long set down to receive feedback from Maya on Zuma’s “reconsideration application” with regard to barring prosecutor Billy Downer from his arms deal trial — heard that Maya had not yet even been sent the petition.

Zuma is out of jail on an illegally issued medical parole after he was sentenced by the Constitutional Court to 15 months for contempt of court. He began his term of incarceration on 7 July 2021, which was meant to end in October 2022.

After only two months behind bars, outgoing Correctional Services head, Arthur Fraser, unlocked the door and let Zuma out.

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The former president, who has consistently cited health issues as a reason for his non-appearance in court, was not expected to attend Tuesday’s brief hearing.

In December 2021, the Pretoria High Court ordered that Zuma be returned to prison as his parole had been granted unlawfully and that (Fraser’s) decision undermined the rule of law and the Constitution.

Zuma applied for leave to appeal against this ruling, which was granted. Maya’s division is yet to hand down a decision on Zuma’s application. This has created the legal vacuum in which Jacob Zuma now exists and from which he has occasionally been seen out and about, signing his books and going to bat for his son, Duduzane.

Judiciary spokesperson Nathi Mncube later attributed delays preventing the parole matter from being heard by the SCA as urgent, to “a communication error”.

This had resulted, he said, in the Zuma parole matter right off the court’s first 2022 term starting in February, as well as the second, beginning in May.

“I regret to confirm that the SCA official did not communicate with President Maya as expected. He has acknowledged this mistake and we will deal with the matter regarding his transgression internally.

“Furthermore, the court will communicate with the parties on how the matter will be dealt with going forward, in view of the mistake.”

Lawyers for the Helen Suzman Foundation and the Democratic Alliance wrote to Maya this month, requesting that Zuma’s application be urgently reviewed and set aside and that the former president’s time spent out on parole should not be counted as time served.

Both parties wrote to Maya, saying the matter needed to be fast-tracked or it would be resolved only after Zuma’s term of imprisonment had ended. 

Downer this week confirmed to the Pietermaritzburg High Court that Zuma’s application for his recusal was “on its way” to Maya, two months after the court set the date for feedback.

The long-awaited trial will now stand over to 31 May.

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The delays in the start of the corruption case against Zuma and French arms company, Thales, are now the stuff of legend. They have made the law books and indeed have set precedents in law.

The National Prosecuting Authority said on Monday that it had not heard from the SCA regarding Zuma’s attempt to have Downer removed as prosecutor.

In April, the JSC announced that Ramaphosa had written to Chief Justice Zondo intimating that he was considering appointing Maya as his deputy. 

Maya’s interview is due to take place on 20 June. DM

 

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All Comments 18

    • On the face of it, it has to be so … because someone in her position should have been aware of the ‘urgency’ surrounding this matter …. and did ‘nothing’ to find out why the matter had not ‘yet’ appeared before her ! As for Mncube claim of a ‘communication’ error and the SCA ‘individual’ responsible for it …. being dealt with ‘internally’ (polite for cover up) – there is a simple question : how did s/he get to be employed there in the first place ? For a branch of government thought to be ‘competent’ … this is disgraceful to say the least.

  • Delay is weapon. Justice delayed is justice denied. Is there a conspiracy in the SCA? The fact that the man who destroyed South Africa is “signing books and batting for his son” is an utter disgrace.

  • Running a ‘tight ship’ when gunning for a top job but then dragging heels with another more mundane case? Sounds like something a politically compromised judge would do.

    Bringing hearsay and anonymous rumour to thwart a competitor for the same top job? Sounds like something a morally compromised judge would do.

    • A ‘learned’ opinionista who teaches law and writes regularly for DM, was most disappointed by her ‘failure’ to reach this ‘pinnacle’ of the judiciary ‘instantaneously’ … despite acknowledging several unfair aspects the process !

  • Justice Maya, knowing full well the importance of the Zuma issue, now being proposed as DCJ has truly shown her favourites. No to her appointment as DCJ!

  • This whole debacle has become a circus of note. It seems unlikely, to put it mildly, that Zuma will ever see his day in court. It is not worth holding our collective breath, or getting hot under our collective collar. Our laws seem to apply in theory only. Beyond sad but it’s no longer worth expending energy waiting for something positive to happen.

  • I stand to be corrected but I thought that Maya had not even been sent the application for recusal. How then is it HER dragging her feet?

    • Because you would have to be a Japanese cave dweller who thought the war was still on not to kmow that Zuma was abusing the courts to the disgust of the country and it was up to the SCA to put a stop to it immediately.

  • How on earth does an SCA Official make a “mistake” regarding anything relating to Zuma? “Dealing with the matter internally” means nothing. Charge the individual with Obstruction of Justice, then fire them!

  • Have people given thought to the violence which could break out again after any conviction of Zuma – remember what happened in July! Perhaps Judge Maya is “playing for time” – putting off the inevitable?

  • In two years time this woman is taking over from Judge Zondo. Do not have a good feeling about her impartiality especially as Judge Hlophe is her ‘brother’.

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