Pretoria High Court Judge Mabel Jansen has broken a number of judicial oaths, says Michael Motsoeneng, founder of Motsoeneng Bill Attorneys. These include Article 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and she can expect disciplinary action to be taken against her.
“(Article 7 says) a judge must at all times personally avoid and dissociate themselves from comment or conduct by persons subject to his or her control that are racist, sexist or otherwise manifest discrimination in violation of the equality guaranteed by the Constitution,” he explains,
Jansen has South Africans from all sectors of society calling for her disbarment following the revelation this weekend of her racist views. In a Facebook exchange, Jansen said the gang-rape of babies, girls and women was seen as a “pleasurable” pastime for black people, and that incest sanctioned by mothers was a normal thing in black culture.
“This is something the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will have to look at,” said Motsoeneng.
He added that various expectations are placed on judges and members of the bar so that they do not bring the judiciary into disrepute.
“A judge must always act honourably and in a manner befitting a member of the judiciary, not only in the discharge of official duty, but even in a restaurant, even at home,” he said.
“Article 5 says that a judge must behave in their professional and private life in a manner that enhances public trust or respect for the judiciary and the judicial system, which means that they must avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety,” he explains.
Writer Gillian Schutte, who exposed the conversation between herself and Jansen, says she has been trying to get the judge to face up to her racist comments for over a year.
“Some people are asking why it took me a year to expose Mabel Jansen. I ask in return why it took a year for them to respond. This was reported to the JSC immediately as a pending complaint, and I lobbied around it a few times and repeatedly shared it with various legal experts including advocates, as well as on public platforms,” Schutte wrote on Facebook.
She added that it was only when Brian Ihirwe Kamanzi shared the latest posting on Twitter that the racist comments finally got the desired attention.
“The abhorrent content of her utterances can hardly be ignored,” Schutte said.
Many South Africans have been asking how a “blatant racist” was able to to preside over cases as a judge.
Motsoeneng says it is no surprise that people like Jansen are still in the judiciary. After 1994, none of the legal professionals who were instrumental in upholding racist laws were kicked out. They were incorporated into the new legal dispensation in the hope that they would see reason and change their views.
“Nobody was disbarred because they were racist, so we forgave racism and moved on. So, we had judges that were part of the apartheid system that remained in their positions.
“The hope then was that reasonable, intelligent judges and lawyers would cast off their ignorance and stop perpetuating racism. Some of them we managed to change, others we have not,” he says.
Jansen released a statement on her Twitter account saying that her utterances had been taken completely out of context:
What I stated confidentially to somebody in a position to help has been taken completely out of context and referred to specific court cases
— Mabel Jansen (@mabel_jansen) May 8, 2016
The calls for her removal are growing louder. The Democratic Alliance says Glynnis Breytenbach will refer Jansen to the JSC’s Judicial Conduct Committee for review. A petition to have Jansen removed from the bar on Awethu.amandla.mobi has over 3 000 signatures.