Appeal Court judge President; Justice Ian Kirby has attacked High Court Judge Michael Mothobi for delays in delivering judgments. Passing judgment in an appeal in which a divorced couple Dr Michael Akerele and his erstwhile wife Dr Ruth Moampe had a dispute over a company they owned jointly while still married, Justice Kirby two weeks ago complained that Justice Mothobi’s delay in delivering judgment risked eroding the public confidence in the courts. It emerged that Justice Mothobi issued an order to make the provisional liquidation of the estranged couple’s company final and for two years sat on the reasons of his order, making it difficult for the appellant to lodge an appeal.
Justice Kirby pointed out that, “on 21 February 2014 (two years after the issue of the order and apparently after the intervention of the Chief Justice” justice Mothobi finally handed down his reasons for making the provisional liquidation of the company final. Justice Kirby charged that, “such delays are unacceptable, extremely prejudicial to litigants and undermine the constitutional imperative that cases are to be heard with reasonable expedition. Such delays are inconsistent with the values expected of the office of the judge of this republic.
They tend to diminish public confidence in the ability of our courts to deliver justice speedily. Unfortunately this is not the first time that this court has had cause to draw attention to lapses of this kind. The same problem has arisen in a number of cases. He cited the case of Premier Properties vs. Mogobe Incorporated, saying “although in that case the delay was far shorter, it also caused unfair prejudice to the prospective appellant.” Justice Kirby further stated:
“I would recommend with respect that the honourable Chief Justice consider charging his Rules Committee with the task of drafting a new rule, perhaps along the lines of Rule 6(2) of the Court of Appeal Rules; to require timeous delivery of judgments and reasons for decisions already made.” This is not the first time Justice Mothobi is censored by the Court of Appeal for delays in delivering judgments. Earlier this year, Justice Isaac Lesetedi of the Court of Appeal called for administrative action against Justice Mothobi for delays in delivering judgements.
This followed a matter in which Justice Mothobi sat on a case for more than two years without delivering judgement and about 15 months before he gave reasons for an order he had issued in the same case. This was in a matter in which Jamal Trading Company had appealed to the Court of Appeal for an interpretation of an order Mothobi had issued over execution of immovable property of Doves Funeral Parlour.
Delivering judgement over the appeal, Lesetedi said, when the matter was heard at the appeal, both parties complained of slow pace at which Mothobi dealt with the case. He said Jamal Trading Company lawyer asked the court to remit the matter to the High Court if the appeal fails and be allocated to a different judge.
Lesetedi noted that Mothobi stayed for 15 months before furnishing reasons for an order granting leave to appeal.
He said there was need to address complaints by the litigants administratively lest the integrity of the “judiciary be sullied by perceptions of inefficiency.”
Lesetedi said they had been told that the parties have even written complaints to the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo expressing their concern at the pace at which Mothobi was handling the matter.
“Before us, it was pointed out, for instance, that although the interdict application was brought on urgency in February 2011, up to date no rule nisi has been issued and that the parties are in a state of uncertainty several years after the dispute arose. If there is merits in these complaints, there is need to address the complaints administratively lest the integrity of the judiciary be sullied by perceptions of inefficiency.”
Lesetedi then ordered that the matter be remitted back to High Court and be placed before another judge so that it may be expeditiously dealt with. He said they were told that both parties are unhappy at the slow pace at which Justice Mothobi dealt with the case.