Retired Judge Nkola Motata’s gravy train – which paid out nearly R14 million between 2007 and 2016 while he was on special leave – is set to continue while the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) drags its heels on the matter of his impeachment.
Motata, 72, is estimated to have earned slightly less than R2.5 million since his retirement in 2017, bringing his total earnings since he ruined the phrase “sober as a judge” in January, 2007 – when he drunkenly reversed his Jaguar through Richard Baird’s wall near Sandton – to more than R16 million.
According to the Judges’ Remuneration Act, a retired judge is entitled to two-thirds of their salary and if the judge is survived by a spouse, he or she would be entitled to half of that until such time as they die.
Motata’s earning of a salary while on special leave was not subject to the condition he would have to repay the money if found guilty of gross misconduct by the The Judicial Conduct Tribunal.
The tribunal found on April 12, 2018 that Motata’s conduct and his remarks at the scene of his 2001 car accident were racist, impugning on the impartiality and dignity of the courts. Since then, nothing.
Motata retired in 2017 and will receive state benefits for the rest of his life, unless he is impeached.
In 2018, Pierre de Vos, Claude Leon Foundation chair in constitutional governance at the University of Cape Town, noted in an article on his blog, Constitutionally Speaking, that even if Motata were removed, it would have no effect on him serving again as a judge.
“[But] it will lead to a loss of all his retirement benefits as he would no longer be a judge entitled to retirement benefits,” De Vos wrote.
Prior to the tribunal, it took 11 years for the matter to even reach the JSC.
The tribunal said Motata should be removed from office as keeping him would negatively affect public confidence in the justice system. It recommended to the JSC section 177 1(a) of the constitution be invoked, i.e. “the Judicial Service Commission finds that the judge suffers from an incapacity”.
“The tribunal took two days, it took three months to write the report and it’s now taken the JSC more than a year. They’re not doing their jobs on time,” said Baird. “In the tribunal, he was dishonest. He tried to mislead the tribunal.”
Baird again denied he had used the words “drunken k****r” during his engagement with Motata.
At Motata’s drunk driving criminal trial, the court had found Baird to be a credible witness. The trial court convicted Motata and confirmed the ruling when Motata appealed it.
Motata has stuck to his denial he was drunk, saying he did not consider himself to be drunk after two glasses of wine in four hours.
“Racist conduct on the part of a judge therefore strikes at the heart of judicial integrity and impartiality, particularly against the background of South Africa’s apartheid history,” the tribunal said last year. “Accordingly, racist conduct on the part of a judge constitutes gross misconduct.”
JSC spokesperson CP Fourie had not responded to requests for information on multiple platforms.