… After being accused of calling cop a ‘baboon’
By Elvis Muraranganda
ALLEGATIONS of racial battles, fierce power tussles and backbiting have emerged during a Confidente investigation into why a magistrate was allowed to remain on the bench, after a disciplinary hearing recommended that he resign for allegedly calling a black police constable a “baboon”.
The Windhoek magistrate at the centre of the storm, Gerrit Brand van Pletzen, alleged this week that he was a victim of infighting between black and white judicial officials.
“My whole case and the charges laid against me, and (separate cases against) two other white magistrates, was an orchestrated witch-hunt to get rid of us,” said Van Pletzen said.
An investigation by Confidente revealed this week that the Magistrates Commission of Namibia had allegedly overturned
the outcome of a 2012 disciplinary process, which called Van Pletzen to tender his resignation, after he was found guilty of misconduct.
During the disciplinary process, Oshakati-based Control Magistrate Mikka Namweya, who chaired the Van Pletzen hearing stressed that the official’s conduct was a “disgrace” and that he should be called upon to resign.
Namweya was convinced at the time that the versions of all the witnesses, on the balance of probabilities, were true and that the conduct of Van Pletzen was uncalled for, and brought or was likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
He said in his ruling that the incident in which Van Pletzen had allegedly called a black police constable a “baboon” and threatened to jail him, was a serious transgression.
“It cannot be taken lightly for a magistrate or any other person in Namibia calling another a baboon,” Namweya was recorded saying in the minutes of the disciplinary hearing
Van Pletzen was further found guilty of throwing a charge sheet at someone, which Namweya found was “tantamount to assault”.
Van Pletzen had, according to the charges, also offered to testify against the State in favour of an accused, a decision which was termed by Namweya as “a disgrace for a judicial officer”.
However, to the surprise of many in the legal fraternity, Van Pletzen never left the bench and is now presiding over corruption cases in Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.
Namweya stressed this week that he only made the recommendations in the Van Pletzen matter, and that the onus rests on the commission to adopt or reject them.
Asked whether he had evidence of the purported witch-hunt against him, Van Pletzen said on Wednesday: “None of this was ever on record. The two magistrates openly boasted to their black colleagues about how they will get rid of all the whites.
“It was simply a matter of a power-hungry person, who thought that by getting rid of senior personnel, she could advance herself when room was made at the top.
Talk to some of the black magistrates in Windhoek, who have served for a few years already.”
Van Pletzen also claimed he was exonerated through an appeal process.
“The whole judgment was flawed. On appeal, I was only convicted of the one charge (relating to offering to testifying on behalf of an accused), which was due to my own admission, as I knew I had acted in the interest of justice, and I will be convinced of that for the rest of my life,” Van Pletzen said.
“Eventually the sanction given by the Magistrates Commission was an admonishment, not to repeat what I had done.”
When asked for a copy of the appeal judgement, Van Pletzen referred Confidente to the Magistrates Commission, claiming he never received it himself.
Magistrates Commission Chairperson, Nate Ndauendapo, stressed that he cannot comment on the matter, as it happened before his tenure. He referred all queries the commission’s secretariat.
Van Pletzen admitted that he was “originally” found guilty of all the charges against him.
“I never resigned from the bench, because I knew I still had an appeal process to go through. I did that, and after a very long time, I was informed that most of the charges were never proven,” Van Pletzen explained.
“I was informed by the Magistrates Commission, that I was found guilty, on appeal, of one count only.
“The person, who tried me, was so eager to convict me that he made a series of mistakes, and committed such gross irregularities, that his whole judgment was flawed.”
Legal and constitutional affairs expert Nico Horn quizzed why, if Van Pletzen was init
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015