Why I'm not a racist - Nkola Motata

Judge says there's nothing racial about referring to whites as "leburu" in Sotho

Submission by Judge Nkola Motata to the Judicial Service Commission in response to the complaint against him from AfriForum..

The Secretary:



1. In this regard I wish to refer you to your letter dated 29 July 2008 to which was attached a complaint against me from the above named complainant and to the subsequent correspondence dating up to 18 June 2009 from the Judicial Service Commission in which it was expressed that the complaint could not be finalised before the completion of the criminal proceedings against me.

2. This is to inform you that the criminal proceedings against me in the Magistrates Court were finalised on the 9th of September 2009. However, I have since applied for leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence against me. The results of the criminal proceedings were that I was found guilty of drunken driving and sentenced to R20,000 or 1 year's imprisonment. I was acquitted on the following charges.

2.1 Driving a motor vehicle on a public road whilst the alcohol concentration in my blood exceeded the statutory limit of 0,05 gram per ml;

2.2. Defeating the ends of justice;

2.3 Resisting arrest;

2.4 Driving a motor vehicle recklessly or negligently.

3. I have taken note of the concerns of the Judicial Service Commission in having the matter finalised as soon as possible and I am also anxious to have the mater finalised as soon as possible as I would wish to go back to my duties, hence, I have taken this decision to respond to the complaints raised in the letter under reply.

4. I wish to respond to the complaint raised therein as follows. Before responding to the complaint raised in the letter I deem it expedient to set out briefly the circumstances which led to my arrest for the benefit of the Judicial Service Commission.

4.1 In the evening of the 5th of January 2007 I was at a restaurant in Randburg together with one of my colleagues where we had dinner. I arrived at the said restaurant at about 19h00.

4.2 Whilst we were having our meals we consumed a bottle of wine where each one of us consumed two glasses.

4.3 After we had dinner, we had coffee after which we parted ways and I was on my way home. On my way home I took Glen Eagles Road which was a shoft cut to my house. Whilst driving on this road I came to a point where I noticed that the road was closed by a palisade fence.

Although I normally used that road I was unaware that it closes at certain time and it was only then that I learnt that the boom gate closed between 21h00pm and 6h00 am. We left the restaurant at about immediately after 11h00pm.

The road at which I was driving was a narrow road. Seeing that I could no go further than that point I had to take a u-turn and the road was so narrow that it was impossible to simply take a u-turn without taking as three point turn. I then drove towards my right and reversed twice and I moved forward. I observed an oncoming vehicle which forced me to reverse even further and it was in that process that I accidentally hit the wall of a Mr Baird [on] Glen Eagles Road Hurlingham. After that accident I was arrested and charged with the above mentioned charges.

5. In response to you aforesaid letter dated 29 July 2009 to which is attached a complaint by AfriForum I wish to state as follows:

5.1 I dispute the allegation that I am guilty of any racist conduct and confirm that whenever I am called upon to perform my duties as a Judge I do so in the interest of all communities without prejudice or favour of any racial grouping.

5.2 I further dispute the allegation that in the audio recordings there is anything which I said to the effect referred to in paragraph 2 of the letter of complaint. As far as I can recall all I said was the following:

"ja, but you know bana beso, e reng ko le jwetse, bongata ba rona ke lefatshe la bo rona, esen la mabura fela. E ha ba ka ba le mebele e meholo, South Africa key o rona."

Which, literally translated, means

"Yes but you know my brothers and sisters, let me tell you, to most of us this is our land and not the white man only. Even if they can have big bodies, South Africa is ours.

"le ha ke kene ke tla le lefa empa a se ke a nyefola. Ha ho na leburu le ka nyefolang le ha a ka nahanang."

Which, literally translated, means

"Even if I have knocked the wall I will pay but he must not degrade/disparage me. There is no white man who can degrade/disparage me no matter what he thinks."

6. Furthermore I wish to add that I never spoke to Mr Baird when I uttered the above words but I was speaking to a Metropolitan police officer in the Sotho language and it is normal to refer to a white man in the Sotho language as a "leburu" and there is nothing racial about it. I never referred to Mr Baird directly a a "leburu."

7. Accordingly, I dispute the allegation that I am a racist and that it is necessary that I should be subjected to any investigation in terms of section 177(3) of the Constitution.

Your sincerely,

Motata N. J.

Judge of the High Court of South Africa: North Gauteng Division - Pretoria


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