Appeal Decision: Ravana Jacobs vs Beeld

Decision: Application for leave to appeal

Applicant: Ravana Jacobs

Respondent: Beeld

Matter No: 103/03/2015

DECISION: APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

[1]     Magistrate Ravana Jacobs (“applicant”) lodged a complaint against Beeld (“respondent”) in respect of an articled which appeared on 19 March 2015, headlined “Landdros se ‘wandrag’ bekyk” (Magistrate’s ‘misconduct’ investigated”).  The article reported that applicant had levelled certain allegations of racism against Krugersdorp Senior Prosecutor, Mr Swanepoel.  Applicant is now a magistrate in Mafikeng.  Mr Swanepoel was dismissed, but later re-instated by the CCMA.  According to the article, Mr Swanepoel had been dismissed by the National Prosecuting Authority on the basis of charges of racism levelled against him by the applicant.  The story also mentioned that the arbitration decision said that applicant lied under oath, and that she lied so as to get a transfer back to Pietermaritzburg where she previously worked.  It was stated that as a result, the Magistrates Commission received a complaint of misconduct against applicant.

[2]     The applicant’s complaints were, briefly, the following:

2.1    she was never a magistrate at Krugersdorp; (but it should be stated though that the article did not say she was),

2.2    that she did not work in Pietermaritzburg, but in Howick, Camperdown and Hammersdale; but the respondent says these areas fall under Pietermaritzburg;

2.3    she did not lay charges against Mr Swanepoel; this was done by the NPA;

2.4    responden misspelt her name to read “Revana” instead of “Ravana”;

2.5    she was not contact for comment;

2.6    her photo was used without her permission.

[3]     The respondent conceded that applicant’s name had been misspelt, but that that was how it was spelt on the documents they received.  Regarding the other complaints, respondent stuck to its guns, insisting that the story relied accurately on the contents of the arbitration decision.  The Ombudsman, in his Ruling dated 15 May 2015, dismissed all the complaints, except the one relating to the misspelling of applicant’s first name; he reprimanded the respondents.  The applicant now seeks leave to appeal the Ruling of the Ombudsman.

[4]     For an application for leave to appeal to succeed, the applicant must show reasonable prospects of appeal before the Appeals Panel.  The question therefore is whether the applicant does show such prospects.

[5]     Applicant argues that it was the NPA which brought the charges against Mr Swanepoel; she was just a witness.   Even if that were the case, the fact is that she did file the complaints.  In a broad sense, it can still be said she brought charges; even if the ultimate decision to charge Mr Swanepoel was taken by the NPA.  The issue of lying under oath is very important especially to a judicial officer.  But I accept that the Ombudsman has satisfied himself of the contents of the arbitration decision.  It is, at any rate, a matter which, according to the applicant, the NPA is taking further.  It must be said, in all fairness to the applicant, that if the respondent was aware that the arbitration decision was being challenged, there was a strong case for mentioning this because it is obvious that the Magistrates Commission can never take the question of lying under oath further without awaiting the outcome of the judicial process.

[6]     Nevertheless, for the above reasons, as well as those given by the Ombudsman, I do not think that the applicant has reasonable prospects of success on appeal; the application is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 7th day of July 2015

Judge B M Ngoepe; Chair, Appeals Panel

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