Wenzile Modonsela’s summary of Judge Thokozile Masipa incorrect judgment in Oscar Pistorius’ case has been commended. Wenzile is a law student at the University of Pretoria.
Her mother, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said she [Wenzile] was the first person to state that Judge Masipa made a mistake. Thereafter, she offered a strong opinion regarding why the judgment wrongly applied the principle of dolus eventualis.
SA Public Protector Madonsela said this during an address at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Law Professions Day cocktail function in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
Speaking further, Madonsela said Wenzile was in her second year LLB studies at the time. And after her summary, “the SCA agreed with her and so has the Constitutional Court recently.”
We will recall that the Oscar Pistorius trial is not Judge Thokozile Masipa’s first high-profile case. In the 16 years since becoming judge, she has presided over four major cases and has become known for handing down stiff sentences.
Judge Masipa has presided over the Oscar Pistorius trial. She is accustomed to high-profile cases since becoming a high court judge in 1998.
Her controversial decision to find Pistorius not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in a September 2014 ruling resulted to heavy attacks from many quarters.
According to Supreme Court of Appeal judge Leach, Judge Masipa made multiple “errors in law” in her ruling last year that the Paralympic star could not have foreseen Reeva Steenkamp’s death when he shot four times through his locked toilet door on Valentine’s Day in 2013.
Leach further considered Masipa’s judgement as full of “fundamental” errors, as she “ignored” key evidence from a ballistics expert.
Also, state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, argued Masipa did not look at the circumstantial evidence holistically and had instead paid “lip service” in her judgment.
Speaking in an interview with Media24, Justice Minister Mike Masutha said Masipa should not be crucified because she made mistakes in the Oscar Pistorius trial.
“I don’t think we should crucify the judge having got it wrong. Certainly many people were not happy at how she arrived at the decision and of course the decision itself.”
Masutha however described the case as an “educative opportunity” for many South Africans.
68-year-old Masipa grew up in Soweto, an impoverished township outside Johannesburg. She became an advocate in her late forties before becoming the third black woman in South Africa to be appointed to the bench in 1998, following Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro and High Court Judge Lucy Mailula.
She is known for her careful, steely, decisions. In one case, she sentenced a serial rapist dubbed the “Axeman” to over 250 years in prison.
In another case, she handed down a 252-year sentence to serial rapist and robber, Shepherd Moyo, after he was apprehended and tried after a seven-year crime spree.
In December 2010, Masipa ruled against an R85-million lawsuit that former Eskom chief executive, Jacob Maroga, brought against his previous employees for unlawful dismissal. He asked that he either be reinstated as the utility’s chief executive or be compensated.