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SA’s judicial committee dismisses claims on Dewani judge

Cape Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso during an interview in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Roger Sedres)
Cape Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso during an interview in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Roger Sedres)

The Judicial Service Commission’s conduct committee this week dismissed complaints against Judge Jeanette Traverso regarding her handling of British businessman Shrien Dewani’s trial in the Western Cape High Court.

The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) and a campaign group called Justice4Anni accused Traverso of being biased in favour of Dewani’s defence during the trial.

The committee said complaints by both parties were based on opinions which were not substantiated by any reliable facts.

“Disenchantment about a judicial decision does not justify disciplinary proceeding. The rest of the complaints by HETN and Justice4Anni are frivolous and lacking of substance,” the committee said in its judgement.

“The complaints by HETN and Justice4Anni are dismissed in terms of section 15 (2) (coffee) and (2) (d) of the JSC Act.”

Jacobus Verschuur presented the dossier on behalf of Justice4Anni.

Verschuur said the dossier contained views of individuals and groups across the world who shared an interest in the case.

The group accused Traverso of refusing to allow key evidence to be submitted in court for the prosecution.

The HETN accused Traverso of gross negligence, incompetence and that her conduct was prejudicial to the independence and impartiality of the court. It accused Traverso of racism and having hostility towards the black-led government.

Traverso responded to the complaints, the committee said. Her two assessors, Penelope Magona and Johann Gerber also submitted affidavits in support of Traverso.

”They all refute the allegations and accusations levelled against Madam Justice Traverso. It is not in dispute that Madam Justice Traverso did engage both the State and the Defence counsel when making oral submissions, however, they submit, it is not in the tone and spirit as alleged by the complainants,” said the committee.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Western Cape, Rodney de Kock said in a letter to the committee that the state did not support the call for the recusal of Traverso “because there was nothing in her conduct that warranted such a course of action”.

The committee said De Kock indicated that he consulted his team after the allegations against Traverso were published in the media.

“Our analysis of exchange between the presiding officer and the state recognise that this formed part of the rigorous trial as opposed to racial bias on the part of the judge,” de Kock was quoted as saying.

Dewani was accused of having plotted the murder of his wife Anni Dewani with others during the couple’s honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010. He was acquitted last year.

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