Judge Motata likely to hang on to his job

Simon Nare

Simon Nare

Pretoria high court Judge Nkola Motata, who yesterday asked for leave of absence after being arrested for drunk driving, will probably not lose his job - even if he is convicted.

This is because there are no clear guidelines on how to handle cases involving judges.

Shadrack Gutto, a legal expert and commentator, said that though the judge could be charged, convicted and sentenced he will more than likely get no more than a slap on the wrist.

"He can be charged and sentenced, most likely to a fine, but that doesn't mean he will lose his job," said Gutto.

Judges are difficult to fire because the constitution "specifies only very narrow grounds" for the removal of a judge.

Motata was released on R1000 bail after being arrested for drunken driving in a Johannesburg suburb.

He crashed his Jaguar into the wall of a house in Hurlingham at the weekend.

Yesterday Motata met his boss, Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, and was given leave of absence.

Ngoepe said: "The judge, in the interests of justice, asked for leave of absence from duty."

Ngoepe said he granted him leave until the end of next month and that Motata's position would be reassessed after his trial.

Motata is due to appear in the Hillbrow magistrates' court on January 27.

Gutto said disciplinary action could be taken against Motata by the Judicial Services Commission and this could lead to his dismissal.

"But so far no law has been enacted to deal with questions of disciplinary action [against judges].

"At the moment, there's only a draft bill that deals with complaint mechanisms against judicial officers," he said.