TRANSFORMATION has never been an easy thing. In fact, it has become an emotional topic in the South African context.
It is for this reason that the Education for Social Justice Foundation (ESJF) is extremely concerned about Cape Town Advocate Idris Jeremy Muller SC’s professional misconduct. Muller, a former chairperson of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB), has been exposed as a champion of racism in the GCB. Of particular concern to us is Adv Muller’s inconsistent and racist conduct during his tenure as the GCB chairperson.
The ESJF has learnt with shock that Adv Muller had targeted Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDDP) Adv Nomgcobo Jiba for alleged misconduct but failed to subject white Advocates like Paul Hoffman who had committed the worst professional misconduct.
This was Adv Muller’s deliberate and racist conspiracy to get Adv Jiba struck off the roll of advocates for malicious reasons. During his tenure, the GCB targeted black advocates such as Jiba, Lawrence Mrwebi, Sibongile Mzinyathi and Menzi Simelane. By contrast, white advocates who had committed comparable or more serious acts were left scot-free without the GCB even subjecting them to disciplinary hearings.
He also allowed naked and blatant racism to manifest in the Bar Council, thus perpetuating injustice and racism against black advocates. While Adv Muller’s racist conduct was limited to the GCB, it was consistent with the systematic, racialized and politicised legal fraternity as a whole.
Despite Adv Hoffman being a serial culprit of unethical and unprofessional conduct, Adv Muller protected him for racist reasons. Adv Hoffman is a controversial figure, with no integrity, known for attacking black judges and impugning their professional integrity for malicious reasons.
In 2013, he claimed that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng had brought the judiciary into disrepute and had to be removed. The Chief Justice’s sin was to merely call for transformation of the legal profession.
At the time, Adv Hoffman had reportedly told The Witness newspaper that he “had instructed Advocate Izak Smuts SC to act on my behalf in the matter. The complaint would be lodged soon”.
Sadly, Adv Hoffman’s attitude is consistent with that of Adv Muller and other white supremacists in the broader legal fraternity, who are hell-bent on persecuting black professionals for political and malicious reasons. Some of them, including Judge Johann Kriegler and Zak Jacoob, are also known for going as far as to politicise the judiciary.
In recent months, these retired judges have brazenly blurred the lines between politics and the judiciary by taking part in political marches and making political pronouncements. Even former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke correctly noted the worrying trend during his speech at the annual Helen Suzman Lecture at the Gordon Institute of Business Science on November 17, 2016, when he warned that courts are in danger of being used as political instruments and our judiciary will become heavily politicised.
The ESJF calls upon the legal profession and the government to fast-track transformation of the judiciary. They must rid the profession of bad elements, and affirm more female legal professionals. Black legal professionals must also be trained and appointed to the bench.
We are also shocked and dismayed at the tired tactic that is used by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach in challenging the validity of her suspension in a criminal trial through the media. Ironically she had previously challenged her suspension on the same grounds before the Labour Court and failed.
Her application was dismissed and the Labour Court found her suspension to be lawful. The court found that Adv Jiba was within her right in suspending her. Breytenbach did not appeal the Labour Court ruling.
It is, therefore, mind-boggling why she is rehashing the same point which she failed to justify in the Labour Court; worse still do so in a criminal court in relation to the criminal charges she is facing.
The main charges, according to newspaper reports, are that she shredded from the NPA laptop assigned to her information which was the subject of investigations against her.
In doing so she defeated the ends of justice. Logic and common-sense dictate that the lawfulness of her suspension or authority of Adv Jiba to suspend her cannot be justification for the shredding of NPA information.
Adv Breteynbach simply had no right to shred that information because she had issues with the lawfulness of her suspension. This is nothing more than clutching at straws by Breytenbach who seems not to have any clear and proper defence to the charges of shredding the NPA information.
Makaneta is the deputy chairperson of the board of the Education for Social Justice Foundation.