Multinational software giant SAP is off the hook for now in a R12bn lawsuit after the SCA upheld an application that the High Court judge who had ruled against the group should recuse himself.

Business Day report says in a case dating back to 2008, Peter Tattersall’s company System Applications Consultants (SAC) – trading as Securinfo – is pursuing SAP System Integration (SAP SI) for allegedly reneging on a deal entered into between the parties in 2004.

SAP is being sued in its capacity as the parent company.

The SCA last week set aside a High Court order in SAC’s favour after finding that an application by SAP at the trial court for the presiding judge to recuse himself after showing signs of ‘impatience’ should have been granted.

SAP’s recusal application against Judge Moroa Tsoka came after the judge abruptly disengaged from the process – proceedings were held virtually – when SAP was cross-examining one of SAC’s witnesses, stating to counsel: ‘When you’ve finished you’ll let me know. I’m taking a break.’

The SCA found that SAP had proved that Tsoka’s conduct merited his recusal.

‘While, no doubt, judicial officers can and do form provisional views, including perhaps even in respect of the credibility of a witness, it remains the fundamental duty of every presiding officer not to close their mind to changing those provisional impressions, until the last word has been spoken. After all, a cornerstone of any legal system is the impartial adjudication of disputes that come before the courts,’ the SCA said in its unanimous judgment.

‘What is required is not only that the trial be conducted open-mindedly, impartially and fairly, but that such conduct be manifest to all those who are concerned in the trial and its outcome. In this regard, language is important, and in this case the language employed is in some respects rather unfortunate.’

Full Business Day report