Former East London candidate attorney Matthew Bell, one of the complainants in ex-magistrate Xoliswa Stuurman’s disciplinary tribunal, has welcomed her dismissal from the bench, saying the public at large and legal professionals had “suffered under the abuse of power”.
Bell and his principal, attorney Terence Mathie, were involved in four of the 17 charges that led to Stuurman’s dismissal.
When Bell appeared in an application for a postponement of a case in about 2013, Stuurman accused him of being a liar and a racist.
She first conferred in isiXhosa with the respondent party in Bell’s matter without ensuring that her communication was translated for the benefit of Bell or his client. She remarked that Bell’s firm had infringed upon the respondent’s rights before laughingly stating the respondent “must approach a very good attorney and sue Terence Mathie Attorney for damages”. When, a few minutes later, Bell confirmed she had made this ruling, she denied having said this.
“After that she stated that I undermined her court, on the basis that she is black, and it’s people like me that sow discord in her court,” Bell told the disciplinary tribunal.
Bell said he was embarrassed that Stuurman had called him a liar and a racist in the presence of his colleagues and members of the public.
Attempts by senior attorney Elias Makhanya to calm the waters in court were thwarted when Stuurman ordered him to sit down. Makhanya advised Bell to withdraw his case before her.
Later, Bell and Mathie agreed to seek Stuurman’s recusal in another case to avoid bias given that the firm had laid a complaint against her. Stuurman was having none of it.
“I take exception to Mr Bell’s actions when it comes to lying about my name as well as creating disharmony in my court. In my court, the saying ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others’ is not applicable,” she said.
She also wrote to Mathie: “I am the driver of my court, and, as long as I am not breaking any rules or law, it is my duty to stir it as I see proper and fit.” – Ray Hartle