March 31, 2011 ANTON KATZ
“If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed;
if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may
come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
In an extraordinary outburst in the Western Cape High Court, an advocate swore at the presiding judge and then stormed out of the courtroom.
Advocate Nehemiah Ballem, apparently angry after being questioned by Judge Lee Bozalek about his late appearance, said to the judge in Afrikaans: “Jou ma se p**s, man, f**k you!”
The incident happened during the case of the State versus Godfrey Manxilane on Friday.
Ballem has acted as counsel for the accused in several high profile cases, including the Sizzler’s massacre in 2004; the case of the Elton and Wayne Smith brothers, who murdered marketing strategist Klaas Jonkheid in 2009; and SA Navy serial rapist Tsediso Letsoenya, convicted in 2009 of raping 20 women.
Bozalek, a prominent human rights lawyer in the apartheid days, has been a High Court judge since 2000.
The case began at 2.37pm, with Ballem and the state prosecutor, a Ms van Rooyen, introducing themselves to the judge.
This is a transcript, translated from Afrikaans, of the proceedings.
Judge: “Now first of all, Mr Ballem, where were you this morning?”
Ballem: “My lord, I just want to know if my clerk gave you a message?”
Judge: “Yes, we got a confused message … (about) car problems you had.”
Ballem: “Exactly. Now do you want to hear it again?”
Judge: “Excuse me?”
Ballem: “Do you want to hear the excuse again?”
Ballem: “My car broke down.”
Judge: “Now why did you realise that around 10am when court proceedings were about to begin?”
Ballem: “We had to wait for the AA.”
Ballem: “To tow the car away.”
Judge: “But you, no doubt, had a cellphone?”
Ballem: “I didn’t know about the case. I didn’t have my diary (sakboek) with me.”
Judge: “Your bag (sakkie) wasn’t with you?”
Ballem: “My diary wasn’t with me.”
Judge: “Yes. Could you not have phoned the High Court half an hour, an hour, before the time?”
Ballem: “Judge, how long must we hassle with this?”
Judge: “Excuse me?”
Ballem: “How long must we hassle with this? I’ve now gone to some trouble to be here.”
Judge: “Mr Ballem, perhaps you don’t realise, your first duty, if you have to appear in the High Court, is to be here, and you are not doing us a favour by being here, despite your problems. Why are you turning your face away from me while I’m speaking?”
Ballem: “Well, I asked my secretary to pass on a message and I assume she must have done so.”
Judge: “Yes, but then we got …” (interrupted)
Ballem: “Now do you want the message from me again?”
Judge: “Then we got another strange message: Could the case be postponed until Monday, a telephonic request for a postponement?”
Ballem: “Exactly. Then I got the message that you were prepared to wait for me, and now I am here.”
Judge: “You were not involved in another case this morning, were you?”
Ballem: “I was not involved, Judge. I am here now.” (He slams his hand on the desk.)
Judge: “Sir (meneer), your attitude, you must…” (interrupted)
Ballem: “But then you must not also come …” (interrupted)
Judge: “You must be careful about your attitude, Mr Ballem, in front of the court.”
Ballem: “But then you must also not come with an attitude.”
Judge: “Excuse me?”
Ballem: “I said then you must not come with an attitude, because we are both adults, I am not your child.”
Judge: “Mr Ballem, I must tell you …” (interrupted)
Ballem: “I said I am not your child.”
Judge: “I must warn you …” (interrupted)
Ballem: “You do exactly what you want. Do what you want.”
Judge: “You are sailing very close to the wind.”
Ballem: “Jou ma se p**s, man! F**k you!” (Ballem leaves the courtroom).
Judge: “Ms van Rooyen?”
Van Rooyen: “I don’t know what to say, my lord, except to suggest we remove the matter from the roll for today, and there we can …” (interrupted)
Judge: “I think the matter should rather be postponed sine die (adjourned indefinitely).”
Van Rooyen: “I agree … We’ll get other legal representation and then …” (interrupted)
Judge: “How will that be arranged?”
Van Rooyen: “My lord, I will take the case back to advocate Van der Merwe. He will arrange that someone else takes over the case … the documents are ready in any case.”
Judge: “I think it should remain with this court and I think the most appropriate order is that it be postponed indefinitely … Right, this case is postponed sine die, and Snellers (Legal Transcriptions) are requested to type all the proceedings that took place.”
When the Cape Times telephoned Judge Bozalek to ask for comment yesterday, his secretary said: “But how did you know about that? There were no press in court.” After speaking to Bozalek, she said: “The judge says he does not think it appropriate to discuss the matter with the press.”
When the Cape Times telephoned Ballem’s office, his receptionist said she had not heard from him since Friday.
“I’ve tried the whole day to get hold of him, but I can’t.” – Cape Times
- Anton Katz (scrupeuss.wordpress.com)