Suspend magistrate who ‘had cellphone contact with corruption accused’ – justice committee

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The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services wants a magistrate from Bloemfontein provisionally suspended, as he allegedly had cellphone contact with a corruption accused suspect who had appeared before him.

The Magistrates’ Commission charged LT Mkansi, a regional magistrate from Bloemfontein, “based on prima facie evidence that on numerous occasions, he had communicated on his cellular phone with an accused person who appeared before him in the criminal court on 24 counts of fraud”, reads the committee’s report to the National Assembly, which was distributed in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports on Monday after the committee discussed the matter last week.

“Cellular phone contact between Mr Mkansi and the accused was made on 49 occasions before, during and/or after the accused had to appear before court. The first appearance of the accused before Mr Mkansi was on 17 February 2017 and the first call between them took place on 28 March 2017,” reads the report.

The corruption accused is not named, neither is Mkansi’s relationship with this person.

In October last year, the Commission allowed Mkansi to provide reasons why he shouldn’t be provisionally suspended from office without remuneration.

Mkansi said the allegations are not serious enough to warrant a provisional suspension without remuneration and there is no likelihood of him influencing witnesses, destroying evidence or undermining the public peace.

He also attached a copy of the court record where the prosecutor brought an application for him to recuse himself from the matter.

The application for recusal was granted.

“Before recusing himself, Mr Mkansi denied knowingly dialling the number linked to the accused. He also indicated that he does not know where and how the number linked to his name was obtained by anyone,” reads the committee’s report.

“The Commission is of the view that the allegations against him are of such a serious nature as to make it inappropriate to perform the functions of a magistrate while the allegations are being investigated. The Commission did not make any determination regarding the withholding of remuneration should he be suspended.”

The committee viewed the allegations against Mkansi as a “possible case of corruption” and said “it is inappropriate for a judicial officer facing such kind of allegations to continue to preside over cases while the allegations are being investigated”.

It will, therefore, recommend to the National Assembly that Mkansi is suspended.

Parliament must pass a resolution to confirm the provisional suspension.

The National Council of Provinces will on Tuesday process another matter involving an officer of the court – that of Pretoria’s chief magistrate, Desmond Nair, pending the outcome of an investigation into his fitness to hold office.

Nair is alleged to have asked for, or accepted, or received, special favours or benefits from corruption-accused company Bosasa in the form of upgrades to the security system at his private residence, valued at approximately R200 000.

The National Assembly in March approved his suspension unanimously.

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