Allegations that a magistrate neglected her work and counter-allegations that her accusers are driven by racist motives are not an insignificant matter.
None of these, if true, is worse than the other for they have a direct bearing on fates of human beings and on the fair administration of justice.
To recap, a Pretoria magistrate Ndileka Ndamase stands accused of 42 charges including failure to respect her seniors, neglecting her work and being absent without leave. Her fate lies in the hands of an all-white panel which has refused the application that it recuse itself and be replaced by an all-black entity.
Since the matter is still before a magistrate commission tribunal we may have to wait a while before the full and true picture is revealed. But regardless of how the case pans out, it would have further harmed the image of the administration of justice which continues to be blighted by perceptions of racialism and racism.
The case places persons who would be using the Pretoria court in a dilemma. How is a black person appearing before a white magistrate made to believe that they will get a fair trial when the magistrate's colleague has already cast aspersions about the white colleague?
How are those who lost the cases they argued before Ndamase not obliged to believe that they were hard done by because of a magistrate who was at best indifferent to work?
These are real questions that need an urgent resolution and which the Magistrates Commission and the Department of Justice can ill-afford to postpone.