Sunday Tribune, 10 March: KZN regional court president suspended amid bribery allegations
Magistrate Nzimande, whose responsibilities included the appointment of magistrates, was alleged to be a key player in a crooked cabal of magistrates, prosecutors and police officers allegedly working closely with a criminal syndicate to subvert justice in the province.
Latest update by Saving the Wild, 5 March 2019…
Breaking news from Parliament | South Africa: Regional Court President Eric Nzimande’s suspension has been confirmed by the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Security and Justice.
Jamie Joseph | Saving the Wild reports…
Dumisani Gwala was arrested in December 2014 for attempted murder of a police officer and dealing in rhino horn. At the time of his arrest, a spokesperson for the police operation said that about 80% of the rhino horns in the KwaZulu Natal province were going through his hands.
In January 2016, Saving the Wild began exposing corruption in the Zululand courts that were allegedly linked to ‘The Gwala Syndicate’.
In October 2017, Saving the Wild published the ‘Blood Rhino Blacklist’, an alleged KwaZulu Natal syndicate of magistrates and lawyers.
In October 2018, KZN Regional Court President Eric Nzimande was provisionally suspended by South Africa’s Minister of Justice.
On 21 February 2019, after more than four years since Gwala’s arrest, after more than 30 delays and seven lawyer changes, Dumisani Gwala ran out of wriggle room. Trial starts 24 April at Mtubatuba Court in Zululand.
The provisional suspension of Mr Nzimande has been confirmed and the resolution will be taken to the House.
The wheels of justice turn slowly. But they are turning.
Saving the Wild will not rest until these atrocities against humanity and the theft of South Africa’s natural heritage is dealt with in a manner that fits the crime. This crooked cabal of justice officials, and the kingpins of rhino poaching, deserve a jail cell, and a very long prison term.
October 8th, 2018. ‘Nzmande has been suspended by South Africa’s Minister of Justice!’
“KwaZulu Natal Regional Court President Eric Nzimande was suspended on Friday, October 5th, 2018. This is a monumental victory for human rights and South Africa’s natural heritage. Saving the Wild would like to take this moment to thank the unsung heroes who put their jobs and their lives on the line in the battle to expose the ‘Blood Rhino Blacklist’. The battle is won, now the war begins.”
-Jamie Joseph, Saving the Wild
STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ON THE SUSPENSION OF THE KWAZULU-NATAL REGIONAL COURT PRESIDENT.
October 8, 2018
After considering the advice of the Magistrates Commission, Minister Michael Masutha on Friday the 5th of October 2018 provisionally suspended Mr Eric Nzimande, the Regional Court President for Kwazulu-Natal Division from office.
In terms of section 13 (3) (a) of the Magistrates Act, 1993 (Act No 90 of 1993), the Minister, on the advice of the Magistrates Commission may provisionally suspend a magistrate from office if:
(i) the Commission, after affording the magistrate a reasonable opportunity to be heard regarding the desirability of such provisional suspension, is satisfied that reliable evidence exists indicating that an allegation against that magistrate is of such a serious nature as to make it inappropriate for the magistrate to perform the functions of a magistrate while the allegation is being investigated; and
(ii) an investigation has been instituted by the Commission into such magistrate’s fitness to hold office.”
It is alleged, amongst others, that Mr Nzimande on various occasions approached the Deputy Minister recommending the acting appointment of a number of attorneys for them to act in the Regional Courts within his Regional Division and, in turn, received numerous payments from these attorneys. It is also alleged that Mr Nzimande wrongfully victimized and or sexually harassed, a female acting Regional Magistrate.
The Minister delegated the appointment of acting magistrates to Deputy Minister John Jeffery and he, after consultation with the Judge President of the KZN High Courts, decided to appoint Ms Sharon Marks as acting Regional Court President for KZN with immediate effect.
The Minister trusts that the inquiry by the Magistrates Commission against Mr Nzimande will be concluded as soon as possible. It is of the utmost importance that the magistracy and its leadership must be beyond reproach.
Issued by the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services.
For more information, please contact Mukoni Ratshitanga on +27 66 479 6012.
Blood Rhino Blacklist: A timeline of recent events
South Africa rhino poaching: ‘Bribes paid to court syndicate’
By BBC Alastair Leithead
BBC World News
‘Pattern of racketeering’
In an affidavit, Fresh describes cases in detail in which he names magistrates and prosecutors he was instructed by his uncle, defense attorney Ngwenya, to pay bribes to. These were predominantly rhino poaching cases, including the case of accused rhino horn dealer Dumisani Gwala, who is yet to go on trial.
Many of these names, and others, also appear in a confidential report for the Magistrates’ Commission, seen by the BBC.
It contains allegations against Eric Nzimande, KwaZulu-Natal Regional Court President, from one of his own acting magistrates, concerning payments being made in exchange for their appointments.
Bank account searches led the investigator to widen the report to include other court officials.
The Nzimande Report outlines the accusations and finds that there “appears to have [been] a pattern of racketeering activity”, urging further investigation.
Photo credit: Thomas D. Mangelsen | Saving the Wild Collection.
FRONT PAGE SUNDAY TRIBUNE | SEPTEMBER 9, 2018
KZN lawman who appoints magistrates embroiled in bribes scandal
DURBAN – The Magistrates’ Commission has moved to suspend KZN’s regional court president Eric Nzimande over allegations of misconduct.
The magistrate was served with a charge sheet on Tuesday and was given 14 days to respond to the claims.
He is in charge of appointing magistrates throughout the province.
Saving the Wild Director, Jamie Joseph, said she was relieved that Nzimande had finally been charged after three years of investigation.
Given all the racketeering, coupled with all the cash bribes, the terrible truth is that untold murderers, rapists, rhino poachers and other criminals are out there walking free because of a systematic web of corruption woven by the very people put in charge of protecting South Africans, claimed Joseph.
“Justice must be served to all,” she said.
Asked why it took three years to conclude the investigation, Moosa said: “The delays were due to the complicated nature of the investigations. There was a large volume of documentary evidence to view and witnesses to interview.
Photo credit: Thomas D. Mangelsen | Saving the Wild Collection
By Sam Sole for amaBhungane / News24 / Daily Maverick – September 22nd 2018
By next week KwaZulu-Natal regional court president Eric Nzimande must provide reasons to the Magistrate’s Commission as to why he should not be suspended, pending the finalisation of misconduct proceedings.
In summary, Nzimande is suspected of offering acting magistrate positions in the regional courts in exchange for cash, which he seemingly needed to feed a gambling habit.
Worse, it appears he enabled – directly or indirectly – the formation of a network of judicial officers who are allegedly using their position to pervert justice on behalf of criminals.
In particular, Nzimande’s alleged patronage network appears to overlap partially with a group of court officials in northern KwaZulu-Natal who are alleged to have taken bribes – particularly around poaching cases, although, as we shall see, this was exposed because of a rape case.
Nzimande, through his attorney, was provided with detailed allegations for his comment. He failed to respond.
The delays in finalising the Magistrate’s Commission probe raise questions about the commitment and structure of the commission as the statutory body that exercises discipline over magistrates.
Attorney ZW Ngwenya
The man at the centre of these allegations is attorney Welcome Ngwenya, who also served stints as an acting magistrate – seemingly courtesy of Nzimande.
The draft report discloses five payments Ngwenya allegedly made into Nzimande’s bank account between December 2013 and December 2014, totalling R30 000.
Swart also identifies cases where Ngwenya was appearing as a defence attorney in poaching matters in Zululand at the same time he was supposed to be an acting magistrate clearing the case backlog in Pietermaritzburg.
She notes: “When comparing the dates in the charge sheets… I found that during Mr Ngwenya’s acting stint in the Regional court in [Pietermaritzburg], he was legally representing an accused person who is to be alleged as the Rhino Kingpin.
“No leave forms were submitted by Mr Ngwenya during the days he represented the accused persons in court. Neither was any money deducted from his salary.”
Ngwenya could not be reached for comment and appears to have gone to ground. We will see shortly why that might be so.
Attorney Mpume Linda
Swart’s draft report notes that Linda made a R3 000 payment into Nzimande’s account on February 7 2015 after she had been appointed for a three-month stint as an acting magistrate in the sexual offences court.
Swart notes: “I notice although she was in the sexual offences court she dealt with two corruption matters, one that includes money laundering… In case [XXX] all the accused was found not guilty… A certain attorney by the name of [SS] appeared for one [of] the accused. A payment was made into Mr Nzimande’s bank account by a [SS]. This specific payment has not yet been investigated.”
The draft report also notes that Linda appeared as the defence attorney on September 5 2016 in a rhino poaching matter that “was the same case that Mr Ngwenya appeared in when he was an acting Regional court magistrate in Pietermaritzburg”.
Linda did not respond to emailed requests for a response to detailed allegations.
It was the rhino connections that led Swart’s investigative path to intersect with the fierce bushwhacking advocacy of Jamie Joseph.
Jamie Joseph was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. The biography on her Saving the Wild website says her “childhood days spanned the national parks of both countries, and these great wild places imprinted on her from a very young age”.
It adds: “As a teenager growing up in the height of the ecstasy rave revolution, she stumbled into the dark side and gained insights into a criminal syndicate where money talked, and dealers walked. Her fleeting dance with the devil prepared her for an unexpected life as a wildlife activist twenty years later.”
After stints in London and New Zealand, Joseph returned to South Africa in 2014 “to join the war on elephant and rhino poaching”.
She created the Saving the Wild platform and began “writing stories from the frontline”, the website notes, adding: “Since the start of 2016 she has been exposing a notorious rhino poaching syndicate led by the accused rhino poaching kingpin of Zululand, Dumisani Gwala.”
It is true that no one has done more than Saving the Wild’s Jamie Joseph to put a spotlight on the networks of corruption decimating Zululand’s rhino population – and she was highlighting the easy bail and lenient sentences enjoyed by poachers in some Zululand courts long before anyone else had heard of Welcome Ngwenya.
The 14 work day period for Nzimande to respond to the charge sheet ended on September 25th. To date, October 3rd, the charge sheet has still not been made public as previously stated by the Magistrates Commission. The reasons they sight is that staff is “on holiday” or “off sick”. The people of South Africa have a right to know if justice will ever be done.
Saving the Wild’s response: War on rhino; gambling on corruption.
How many more rapists and murderers and poachers must be set free before someone with the power to do something, brings an end to such atrocities? These crooked justice officials are criminals, and they are being paid with tax payer money. They are, literally, gambling on corruption.