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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

Eastern Cape top judge faces possible impeachment

The Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) has referred the matter to a judicial conduct tribunal for further investigations.

Judge President Selby Mbenenge faces possible impeachment following recommendations of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) that he be investigated by a judicial conduct tribunal, for the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by a Makhanda court official.

According to reports by Sunday Times, a judge’s secretary alleged that Mbenenge had sent her WhatsApp messages of a sexual nature accompanied by unsolicited “crude pictures,” some of which depicted people having sex – which she said he later deleted. 

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Mixed messages

The secretary also alleged that Mbenenge once behaved “indecently” towards her in his office, going as far as unzipping his pants, Sunday Times reported. 

Mbenenge had since disputed the allegations but didn’t deny sending most of the messages concerned, which according to him were not “unwelcome,” – adding that the secretary’s responses were often “jovial or flirtatious.”

According to the Judge, a reasonable person would’ve been convinced that the secretary didn’t find the messages offensive or unwanted. 

Mbenenge also submitted an affidavit from Mthatha’s acting deputy judge president which swore that CCTV footage from the day of the alleged indecent exposure never showed the secretary at any point entering or leaving Mbenenge’s office as per the allegations.

However, Sunday Times reported that according to JCC’s ruling, the secretary said she’d requested for the relevant CCTV footage but was told the system was offline and all content had been wiped out.

The JCC has since ruled that referring the matter to the judicial conduct tribunal for further investigations is the most “appropriate conclusion.”

The judicial conduct tribunal is responsible for looking into cases involving impeachable conduct. 

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Pleased with decision

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) which represented the secretary welcomed the JCC’s decision on Friday. 

“The Women’s Legal Centre welcomes the decision of the Judicial Conduct Committee which found that our client has established a prima facie case, which if substantiated, will likely lead to a finding of gross misconduct by the Judge President of the Eastern Cape,” said WLC in a statement. 

“The WLC along with our client, will now focus on preparing for the Tribunal process, which has the power to find the Judge President guilty of gross misconduct which carries a sanction consequence of impeachment.

“We are hopeful that the Tribunal process ahead will proceed without undue delay, given the seriousness of the offence,” WLC said.

According to Media24, the JSC is set to meet on 2 October to proceed with the matter. 

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