Anti-poaching organisation Saving the Wild Charitable Trust has been permitted to intervene in the disciplinary hearing of suspended KwaZulu-Natal regional court president Eric Nzimande and will make submissions at the end of the proceedings to “ensure justice is done and is seen to be done”.
The intervention application was submitted to hearing chair retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge Jeremiah Shongwe on Thursday by advocate Samantha Martin.
It was not opposed by those representing the Magistrates’ Commission and Nzimande.
Many of the 162 charges of misconduct Nzimande faces relate to allegations that he took money from aspirant magistrates in return for him recommending their appointments as acting or permanent regional court magistrates.
Saving the Wild has previously alleged corrupt relationships between Nzimande and some magistrates who, the organisation says, were at best being soft on crime and at worst complicit in corruption.
In its written submissions on behalf of Saving the Wild founder Jamie Joseph, it states the NGO wants to assist in the administration of justice and to ensure “environmental justice”.
“The applicant is not a distant, armchair observer. The applicant has been actively overseeing rhino poaching matters since 2016. This oversight has included spending hours of her time watching rhino poaching matters in the division overseen by Nzimande.
“This has attracted considerable public interest.”
Joseph said she exposed alarming issues relating to Nzimande’s conduct, which she referred to various state departments for investigation into the alleged “rot” besetting his conduct and professional history.
She reported his conduct to former public protector Thuli Madonsela.
She also issued a public document known as the “Blood Rhino Blacklist”, detailing an alleged syndicate of corrupt dealings linked to Nzimande involving poaching syndicates.
By allowing the organisation to monitor the disciplinary hearing and make submissions, it would ensure “justice is done and seen to be done”.
It will also assist the public interested in and affected regarding allegations against office bearers who wield considerable power. “Such power is subject to public scrutiny and trust in an open and democratic society, based on inclusion and transparency.”
Martin said there would be no cost implications for the commission or Nzimande because Save the Wild was represented pro bono.
The hearing began on Monday with the reading of the charges, after which Nzimande pleaded not guilty.
He was expected to give a more detailed explanation on Tuesday, but lawyers for the Magistrates’ Commission asked for the matter to be adjourned so they could access “critical documents” and consult their witnesses.
The matter will now proceed on March 4.
Apart from the payment-for-jobs allegations, Nzimande is also accused of sexually harassing an acting magistrate, claiming she owed him for giving her a job and sending her a cellphone picture of his genitals. He is also accused of gambling at a local casino during working hours.
Some charges are linked to criminal charges of corruption he faces and for which he will appear in the Durban high court in May.