Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and beleaguered High Court Judge Mabel Jansen have requested that Justice Minister Michael Masutha place her on special leave, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) said on Tuesday.
“The CJ and Judge Jansen met and agreed to request that the minister place her on special leave,” JSC spokesperson advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza told News24.
This followed complaints against Jansen after she was accused of making racist comments about black people and rape on Facebook.
“The secretariat has confirmed that a complaint was laid [against Jansen] by Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana SC in his personal capacity, as well as another complaint in his capacity as Johannesburg Branch Chair of the Advocates for Transformation,” Ntsebeza said.
“The Judicial Conduct Committee will now consider the complaint, and whether it is of a serious enough nature to warrant a judicial conduct tribunal.”
The special leave request was so that she would not be on duty as a judge while the process was ongoing.
Masutha’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Mhaga, said the minister’s office had not yet received the request by 1.30pm on Tuesday.
Journalist Gillian Schutte posted excerpts of written exchanges with Jansen on Saturday and Sunday, in which Jansen said: “In their culture a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman’s consent is not required.”
She also said: “I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious.”
As excerpts of the conversation were shared on social media, comments flooded back reflecting shock that a judge could hold such opinions.
Speaking to News24 at the weekend, Jansen said that the comments referred specifically to the cases she had handled.
They formed part of a private Facebook message exchange from last May, allegedly emanating from an attempt by Jansen to get help for the victims of the rape and assault cases that she hears.
It worried her that victims were often alone with no help, especially children, and women raped by a relative or family member.
She was told Schutte would be able to give her advice on how to help them, and they started communicating via Facebook.
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Jansen said that before she knew it, she was under attack and accused of saying that all black men were rapists.
Jansen maintains that this is not what she said.
“I was referring to specific cases,” said Jansen. “It was within that context.”
However, Schutte said on her Facebook page that she intended taking the matter further.
She posted: “Why is it that when white bigotry of the lowest order is exposed, you are accused of being destructive? This woman is a Judge of the High Court and yet her views on black people reflect deep racism and colonial thinking. Not acceptable. This is not personal. It is about both systemic and institutional racism. #MabelJansen?”
A petition on Amandla.mobi, which called on the JSC and the Department of Justice to remove Jansen had reached over 5 000 electronic signatures by Tuesday afternoon.