HomeEditorialsWe need more judges like Justice Mathonsi

We need more judges like Justice Mathonsi


JUSTICE Nicholas Mathonsi is known for not giving pedestrian judgments. His verdicts are most sound because they are grounded in realities on the ground.

NewsDay Editorial

So it was with his latest judgment this week stopping the demolition of houses in the poverty-stricken suburb of Epworth.

“There can be no doubt whatsoever in the minds of all well-informed persons that this country currently faces extremely serious problems relating to poverty, unemployment and, more importantly, housing,” said Justice Mathonsi in his judgment.

Indeed, there is much more involved. It is not a purely legal matter. This is serving justice with a human face. Treating the symptoms will not cure the disease.

Justice Mathonsi is indeed an activist judge who appreciates that the application of the law solely on legalistic or jurisprudential grounds without factoring in other variables like the prevailing socio-economic situation makes the whole due process meaningless.

In a thinly-veiled attack on politically-connected crooks and their Cabinet enablers, he remarked: “The (housing) problem has, in recent history, manifested itself in illegal occupations of municipal land by hordes of citizens who are without shelter and are, more often than not, being encouraged by a new breed of people bent on cashing in on misfortunes of these home seekers and have since been christened in common as ‘land barons’.”

Justice Mathonsi is not there to merely endorse Executive decisions, but to intensely interrogate them so as to determine their equitableness — that is, fairness all round — to all members of society, well aware that justice can fall into the trap of serving the interests of the minority rich and powerful while being severe on the majority who do not wield power and wealth.

These poor people are often shunted from office to office with no resolution of their grievances at the end of the day only to have their houses demolished without court orders with the land barons laughing all the way to the bank.

Justice Mathonsi, by pointing out this, has thrown the matter from the courts back to where it rightly belongs — government authorities — so that it is dealt with professionally, fairly and transparently, according to the constitutionally-mandated responsibilities, not for the courts to do the dirty work for the corrupt officials.

Thank you, Justice Mathonsi, for this principled, wise, intelligent, holistic stand.

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