Pietermaritzburg attorney Rashid Patel has appealed to the KZN Law Society to assist in rooting out the problem of magistrates acting inappropriately. The Witness reports Patel has written to the society wanting it to engage with its members to find out their experiences in the lower courts. This follows an article published at the weekend by Sam Sole, for the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, about KZN’s Regional Court President, Eric Nzimande.

In it, he said Nzimande must provide reasons by next week to the Magistrates' Commission as to why he should not be suspended, pending the finalisation of misconduct proceedings. Sole wrote: ‘In summary, Nzimande is suspected of offering acting magistrate positions in the regional courts in exchange for cash, which he seemingly needed to feed a gambling habit. Worse, it appears he enabled – directly or indirectly – the formation of a network of judicial officers who are allegedly using their position to pervert justice on behalf of criminals.

Patel said the article has created an adverse impression of the legal profession, and has revealed why some practitioners are unable to get acting magistrate positions.

Patel said this places a ‘slur on the standard of justice’.

He said that when legal practitioners ‘murmur’ that judicial officers are being inclined towards certain practitioners inappropriately – or that judgments are being delivered in a ‘skewed fashion’ – this creates uncertainty in the minds of the public that perhaps the delivery of justice is tainted.

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