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Judge M G (George) Phatudi

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as a judge: 01 July 2016 (Limpopo, Polokwane)
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: African
Date of Birth: 8 March 1959
Key judgments:

  • Taho v Public Services Sector Education and Training (58602.2013) [2013] ZAGPPHC 453
  • Ismail NO and Another v ERF 87 Dullstroom CC (A357/2015)
  • Land and Agricultural Development Bank of South Africa v Factoprops 1052 CC and Another [2015] 3 ALL SA 319 (GP)
  • MEC for Health, Limpopo v Rabalago 2018 (4) SA 270 (LP)

Candidate bio:

Religious chicanery, especially among the prosperity gospel churches which have sprung up all over South Africa, has exposed issues like sexual abuse, fake resurrections, holy toxicity, and their essential money-grabbing, pyramid scheme nature.

In 2018 the Limpopo health MEC brought an urgent application for an interim interdict against self-described “prophet” Pastor Lethebo Rabalago and his “church”, the Mount Zion General Assembly. Rabalago had sprayed the Doom insecticide on congregants to allegedly heal them — earning the monikers, “The Prophet of Doom” and the “Doom Pastor”. Citing the inherent health risk of Doom being applied to humans, the MEC sought to stop the practice.

Phatudi noted the right to freedom of religion found in section 15 of the Constitution, as well as the respondents’ reliance on section 31(1) of the Constitution, which allows for people to form cultural, religious and linguistic communities.

He also considered the “Doom Pastor’s” submissions that he had “spoken to God” and as per “His” instructions was conducting faith healing ministrations to people. The respondents also submitted that congregants who had been sprayed claimed they had been healed.

Analysing judgments of the Constitutional Court on freedom of religion, Judge MG Phatudi held that the “legislation that prohibits misuse of such insecticides or pesticides as Doom spray on humans limits the very religious rights claimed by the first respondent under the Constitution”. He found the limitation was justifiable following a “proportionality analysis” based on Section 36 of the Constitution.

Section 36 allows for certain factors to be considered when determining if a limitation to the Bill of Rights is reasonable and justifiable. These include the nature of the right; the importance, nature and extent of the limitation; the relation between its limitation and its purpose and whether there is a less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.

Phatudi also held further that there were no “watertight mechanisms in our law by which a law enforcement agent could distinguish” between “unorthodox ways of religious worship, which otherwise have a propensity of danger or harm”, and “unconventional methods used for non-religious purposes.”

Preferring to “err on the side of conservatism and carve a wide chasm limiting the scope and type of freedom of religion and belief entertained by the first respondent and his church assembly”, and the Constitutional rights protected in Sections 15(1) and 31(1), Phatudi granted the interdict.

Phatudi’s address on judicial ethics to District Magistrates in KwaZulu-Natal was republished in the December 2020 edition of The Judiciary newsletter. In his address, Phatudi noted that “the concept of judicial ethics is derived historically from the common law, but in the main, involves such issues as honesty, integrity both inside and outside the courtroom, honour, dignity, independence and above all, accountability to the rule of law and the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the Republic.” Phatudi also explained that “judicial accountability, and judicial independence, are … fundamental elements that underpin judicial ethics for every single judicial officer.”

This is particularly relevant in the current battles raging in the Limpopo High Court, where another Phatudi (Judge AML Phatudi) and fellow Judge Khami Makhafola accuse Judge President Ephraim Makgoba of trying to influence them to rule against a Thohoyandou-based law firm in an appeal case before them. In their judgment, AML Phatudi and Makhofola claim that Makgoba told them and other judges in a meeting on 30 July 2020 that a specific group of lawyers was trying to “capture” the Thohoyandou court and they “must be shown that we [the judges] are not going to fear them neither do they own this division” and “if they are not tackled, they are going to put [the judges of Thohoyandou into a lot of problems” they quote him as saying.

AML Phathudi and Makhafola claim the phrase “they must be show” is proof that Makgoba was trying to influence them as it “serves like vultures’ claws, stretched out to its prey… [and] have a tendency of influencing the person in the presiding officer(s)”. The actual appeal before Makhafola and AML Phatudi was in relation to Makgoba’s initial decision to remove from the court roll a case brought by one of the attorneys alleged to have captured the court. The appeal was eventually referred to the Supreme Court of Appeal, with an order that the case be referred to the Legal Practice Council to investigate the claims of capture against the attorneys, and to the Judicial Service Commission to investigate Makgoba’s conduct.

MG Phatudi was previously shortlisted for the position of deputy judge president in the October 2019 JSC session but he withdrew, leaving the other Phatudi to run against Judge TP Mudau and fellow Limpopo Judge Muller. None of them were successful and the JSC left the position unfilled. It remains to be seen whether MG Phatudi will be successful (or even still want the job, considering the toxic politics of the place).

MG Phatudi holds a B.Juris, LLB and LLM. He lectured at the University of the North from 1989 until 1995 before working as an advocate from 1996 until 1999. He has acted as a high court judge in both North Gauteng and Limpopo in various stints between 2013 and 2016. In 2016 he was permanently appointed to the Limpopo Bench. Between February and June 2019 Phatudi acted as the Deputy Judge President of the Limpopo Division of the High Court.

April 2021 Interview: 

April 2016 Interview

Interview Synopsis April 2016

Phatudi was quizzed on his ANC membership by Economic Freedom Fighters MP Julius Malema who seemed unconvinced that the candidate was not pursuing mainstream politics.

“I have seen you at ANC meetings post-1994,” the EFF’s commander-in-chief thundered at a point during the interview when Phatudi was scrambling to explain his political in activism.

He was also asked about his business interests and whether he would retain directorship of these if he was appointed during an interview that failed to convince.