[MEDIA STATEMENT] Judges Matter calls for Judge President accused of sexual harassment to step down
TUESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2023
Judges Matter is very concerned about the complaint that has reportedly been lodged with the Judicial Service Commission about the Judge President being accused of sexual harassment in the Eastern Cape High Court.
Reports in the Sunday Times (19 February 2023) say that not only has a complaint been lodged, but that the complainant was forced to leave the Eastern Cape in the face of what are reported as death threats.
Alison Tilley, co-ordinator of Judges Matter says,
“This is an extremely serious complaint and must have had an impact on the functioning of the division. A High Court Judge President plays an important leadership role in the judiciary and the day-to-day management of the high courts in the province, including allocating cases to judges, drawing up the court roll, and finding acting judges where additional capacity is needed. Acting as a judge is now considered a de facto requirement for permanent appointment as a judge. Under the circumstances, we believe it would be appropriate for the Judge President to step down until the complaint is resolved.”
It is not the first time a judicial officer has been accused of sexual harassment. Judges Matter is aware of at least one other senior judicial officer being similarly suspended for sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in our country, and in the legal profession. Despite this, there is still not over-arching anti-harassment policy in the judiciary.
In response to a question about the lack of sexual harassment policy by Commissioner Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe at his for chief justice in February 2022, Chief Justice Zondo said, “I think my colleagues who are in the heads of courts who are also candidates here, I’m quite happy to make sure that on Monday I talk to them and say okay, what, how do we move, let’s move on this.”
Alison Tilley adds, “It is well past time that the judicial adopt an anti-sexual harassment policy which will regulate the conduct of judges and magistrates, protect victims and combat this scourge.”