‘Don’t suspend her, she’s a woman’
The president of the regional court in North West, who has been reported to the Hawks by the Magistrate’s Commission for allegedly defrauding the state of thousands of rands, shouldn’t be suspended from her job because too many women are being suspended, an ANC MP said on Wednesday. The Hawks in North West are investigating magistrate Seka Monaledi – one of the most powerful women in the justice system – after the Magistrate’s Commission reported her to the Hawks following a fraud investigation, the commission’s secretary, Vick Misser, told City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport.
Not only does Monaledi stand accused of fraudulent claims for travel expenses totalling nearly R1 million, she was also absent from work for long periods while allegedly selling luxury goods from the boot of her car.
Despite this, ANC MPs unanimously decided not to confirm Monaledi’s suspension during a meeting of Parliament’s justice portfolio committee on Wednesday.
Monaledi is the head of all regional courts in North West, which hear more than 99% of all serious criminal cases, including murder and corruption matters. In addition, she is a member of the SA Judicial Education Institute, which trains judges and magistrates, and she serves on the ethics committee of the Magistrate’s Commission.
Monaledi allegedly claimed thousands of rands for travel expenses for work purposes and to attend meetings – a total of R953 838.56 over three years. But the Magistrate’s Commission later found out that some of these meetings never took place, the commission’s Hans Meijer told MPs this week.
According to the commission, these trips didn’t happen once or twice, but 41 times. Meijer said they had also examined toll and customs records and came to the conclusion that, occasionally, Monaledi wasn’t even in the country when she was supposedly travelling in Pretoria and North West for work.
The records are in addition to sworn statements and other documentary evidence obtained by the commission relating to Monaledi’s alleged crimes.
When an investigation was launched, it was found that she wasn’t at work in Mmabatho 71.49% of the time she was supposed to have been there. According to the report compiled by Judge Francis Legodi, it is uncertain if she was in her office for the remaining 28.51% of the time. But Monaledi seemingly wasn’t wasting time. The commission alleges she was also selling luxury clothes from the boot of her car during work hours.
On top of that, Monaledi is an active director of a company involved in conducting tours and construction, as well as a cooperative that, it is suspected, farms pigs.
Magistrates may not earn extra money without permission from the minister of justice.
It’s clear from the report that the commission fought an uphill battle to investigate Monaledi.
She refused to cooperate with the two magistrates investigating her, saying they were of a lower rank and therefore not competent to investigate her. When Legodi intervened and instructed her to cooperate, she still refused. In September, Justice Minister Michael Masutha wrote to Monaledi to ask her to give reasons she should not be suspended. Days before her suspension on November 30, she took leave until January 20 this year and the commission has not heard from her since. Yet, none of this convinced ANC MPs on the justice committee to confirm the suspension. The sitting of the justice committee, which has over the past decade never opposed a decision to suspend a magistrate, began to derail when the ANC’s Makgathatso Pilane-Majake brought up the empowerment of women. “My concern is that we have too many suspensions of women.” She said representatives of the commission didn’t have to react to the comment, but should “take it home and think about it”. Pilane-Majake said she wasn’t trying to condone fraud and misconduct, but the Auditor-General should investigate the matter, rather than Monaledi’s “juniors” where “professional jealousy” might play a role. From that point, other ANC MPs also castigated the commission about how Monaledi could have been a “fit and proper” person to be appointed in the first place. Monaledi could not be reached for comment as she was not at work.
TALK TO US Do you think it makes sense not to suspend someone suspected of fraud or misconduct because that person is a woman?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword ETHICS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50 LOOK WHO’S BACK