Durban – KwaZulu-Natal Regional Court president Eric Nzimande’s provisional suspension was confirmed during the sitting of a National Council of Provinces committee.
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.
It is alleged senior magistrates linked to a syndicate were paid to let off lightly rhino poachers, murderers and rapists.
Motivating for Nzimande’s suspension before the security and justice committee last week, advocate Cassim Moosa, chairperson of the Magistrate’s Commission, raised further serious allegations against Nzimande.
However, when contacted for comment yesterday, Nzimande said: “I am not aware of the new developments. It’s news to me.
“Therefore I cannot comment about that.”
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha suspended Nzimande from active duty in December.
The decision had to be rubber-stamped by the security and justice committee before Nzimande could appear before the Magistrates Commission’s disciplinary to determine his fitness to hold office.
The allegations against him were first made public in October 2017 by conservation organisation Saving the Wild, when it published their Blood Rhino Blacklist, an alleged “syndicate of magistrates and prosecutors protecting rhino poachers and other role players”.
The commission’s advocate, Johannes Meijer, who also attended the committee meeting, said Nzimande’s matter was “very serious” and they wanted to start the inquiry as soon as possible.
Moosa said he would like to assure the committee they were “objective, not subjective” in dealing with Nzimande’s matter, and that they had no personal interest in the case.
“Our only wish was to see that justice is done and seen to be done.”
The matter was deliberated on by the commission on February 22 and more allegations were brought against Nzimande, said Moosa.
He said the investigating officer in the case received death threats, and the acting regional court president’s computer was hacked.
Moosa claimed the integrity of the inquiry into Nzimande’s conduct would be compromised if he was not provisionally suspended as he had allegedly visited witnesses.
He said Nzimande’s suspension was in the interests of justice and cited tremendous national interest in the matter.
Chairperson of the committee Simphiwe Mthimunye confirmed that the provisional suspension of Nzimande would be presented to Parliament.
Saving the Wild director Jamie Joseph welcomed the suspension.