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An apology could have saved judge

By unknown | Sep 04, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE NOT-SO honourable Judge Nkola Motata has egg on his face - and so he should have. It comes as no surprise that the Johannesburg magistrate's court found him guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.

THE NOT-SO honourable Judge Nkola Motata has egg on his face - and so he should have. It comes as no surprise that the Johannesburg magistrate's court found him guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.

He was acquitted of the remaining charges of defeating the ends of justice and resisting arrest.

What was he thinking, trying to refute indisputable evidence of his inebriated state?

It is not so much that he was drinking and driving that I find disconcerting. Granted, this is not a minor offence if you consider the carnage on our roads.

Every day people die because of drivers who feel infallible and believe they are competent enough to be behind the wheel. By the time they realise how wrong they are, it is too late.

In spite of the seriousness of the charge against Motata, there is truly a part of me that can forgive him and concede that he has erred.

As for his inability to spell the word "judge" - well the queen's language is rather difficult and perplexing, even when you are sober. To ask a black man, who has had one too many cups of "judicial tea" to sit for a spelling test in the middle of the night, while his Jaguar is stuck in someone's wall, is asking way too much.

What I find so disappointing, though, is that a man of his calibre, whose daily job is to uphold the law and remind us all of the importance of doing so, would try to spit on that law by fighting this losing battle.

He was drunk, plain and simple.

To try and prove otherwise by being pedantic and finding every loophole to avoid taking responsibility for his actions is lamentable.

This has been a long-awaited judgment and by battling it in court for over two years, Motata has dealt a severe blow to his reputation.

We all have a right to defend ourselves when accused of a crime but this time around there was simply nothing to defend. The image of him slurring and being cantankerous is etched in visual and audio recordings taken at the scene of the crash.

These weighed heavily in the state's favour hence Magistrate Desmond Nair found that the judge was "physically and mentally impaired". How laughable that a judge had to appear in front of a magistrate in the first place!

South Africans are very forgiving. Giving others a second chance even when they fail us in the most profound ways comes naturally to us.

Motata would have received this generosity and empathy if only he had asked.

Instead, he chose to be difficult and belligerent and went as far as threatening a photographer just before sentencing.

The reason this saga has stayed fresh in our minds is precisely because the judge was fighting the obvious truth and trying to circumvent the law.

If he had done the honourable thing and conceded that he was wrong, I doubt that this episode would have been as unpleasant as it has been. A simple word - "sorry" - would have restored his honour and his life would have continued as it should.

I bet Motata would rather choke on his drink than say sorry. Instead he employed delaying tactics. He could afford to challenge every single aspect of this case because he understands the law and thought he could get off the hook.

If only he had used his grasp of our laws and legal processes in a positive way.

There are so many ways in which Motata could prove that he is contrite: he could have volunteered to give motivational talks to law students, dedicate sometime to assisting with the arrive alive campaign and put in extra hours at work.

The options are endless and this would have done more to heal his battered image than any act of bravado and defiance.

It is true that every human being is flawed. Our imperfections mean we all deserve second chances. But certain positions carry noble expectations and a heavier burden to be beyond reproach.

A sloshed judge who refuses to acknowledge his mistakes has no respect for his profession, himself or his family.


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