NEWS & ANALYSIS

Judge Ray Zondo under fire

Questions raised by DA over subsistence and travel allowances of Labour Court head (23 April 2007)

Judge President under fire

Moneyweb 23 April 2007

The Judge President of the Labour Court, Raymond Zondo, has been paid R1 275 493 in transport and living allowances over the past five years. This was disclosed by the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development in answer to questions from the Democratic Alliance (see below).

The Minister stated that Judge Zondo had received R977 459 (tax free) over the past five years in per diem subsistence allowances. This is over and above his salary which currently stands at R704 475. He also made 32 flights between Durban and Johannesburg in 2002, 35 in 2003, 39 in 2004, 50 in 2005, and 16 in 2006, at a further cost of R298 034 to the taxpayer.

Zondo was appointed to the Labour Court in November 1997. He was not a high court judge at the time, although he was entitled to many of the same conditions of employment and remuneration while serving out his 10 year contract. In June 1998 the then Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, gave permission for Zondo to retain Durban, where he had his home and where the Labour Court had a satellite branch, as his headquarters. This entitled him to a per diem allowance for ever 24 hours spent away from home while on official duties, including time spent at the seat of the court in Johannesburg.

The DA’s spokesperson for justice, Sheila Camerer, said on Sunday that it was “hard to see how this special dispensation is justifiable” considering that other high court judges do not receive the same entitlements, and the department itself constantly complains of having inadequate resources.

In terms of the regulations to the Judges’ Renumeration and Conditions of Employment Act (2001), under which Zondo received these allowances, a judge “on official duties away from his or her headquarters or on circuit court duty…is entitled to an all-inclusive subsistence allowance of R600 for every 24 hours that he or she is actually absent from his or her headquarters or home during his or her appointment, as the case may be.” In March 2005 the amount was increased from R600 to R660. The regulations define “headquarters” for a high court judge as “the seat of the division in which he or she is appointed permanently.”

Although Zondo qualified for this allowance while an ordinary labour court judge based in Durban, he received a permanent appointment to the Pretoria High Court in May 1999. In terms of the regulations then his headquarters would have moved to Gauteng once he took up this position. He was then made acting head of the Labour Court in August 1999, and Judge President in April 2000. The question this raises is whether, having taken up a position on the Pretoria High Court, he was still entitled to receive this subsistence allowance when he went back to the Labour Court in Johannesburg?

Zondo is not eligible for this allowance both for the days he spends in Durban, and for those periods he is not performing his official duties. This would include the time he spent in Durban both over weekends and during court recess; as well as his periods of leave and long leave (the three-and-a-half months a judge is entitled to ever four years) wherever they may have been spent.

According to the Minister of Justice “the amount claimed and paid per month” for the subsistence allowance “averaged between R18 000 and R 20 460 per month” (R660 multiplied by 31 equals R20 460). If one divides the amount Zondo was paid over the past five years with the daily allowance that applied at the time, he was paid this allowance on (approximately) 1 566 days out of a possible 1 826. This works out, on average, to 313 days a year for each of the past five years.

Text of the DA statement:

STATEMENT BY SHEILA CAMERER MP

DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE SPOKESPERSON ON JUSTICE

Mabandla must explain R1.5m spent on Judge’s travel and subsistence costs

Release, immediate: Sunday April 22, 2007

According to answers to parliamentary questions I posed to Justice Minister Bridgette Mabandla received this week, the Judge President of the Labour Court, Ray Zondo has cost taxpayers nearly R1.5m in travel and subsistence costs in the past 5 years.

Mabandla explains (in her reply, copied below) that these costs result from a decision taken in 1998 to approve the Durban satellite Labour Court as the Judge President’s “headquarters”, although the seat of the Labour Court is in Johannesburg. This was apparently at Zondo’s request, as he lives in Durban.

While no one claims that Judge Zondo is not doing a good job and while it is true that labour court judges must often travel around the country to hear cases, perhaps this takes pampering judges to a completely new level. Besides the Judge President’s salary of in excess of R750 000, Zondo is entitled to claim R600 for every 24 hours he is away from his “headquarters” on official duties. Clearly, that is a lot of the time as the seat of his court is in

Johannesburg.

It is understood that other judges who have chosen to be appointed to a High Court that is not their home base are not so favoured.

For a department that constantly pleads inadequate resources to clear court backlogs, bring court procedures into the digital age and fill vacant posts, it is hard to see how this special dispensation is justifiable.

Minister Mabandla owes us an explanation for the 1998 decision; we will submit follow-up questions to the Minister in the coming week.

[Copies of parliamentary questions]

DEPARTMENT: JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

QUESTION FOR WRITTEN REPLY

QUESTION NO.: 115

DATE OF PUBLICATION: 16 FEBRUARY 2007

Mrs S M Camerer (DA) to ask the Minister for Justice and Constitutional

Development:

(1) (a) What is the total amount paid by her department in respect of the Judge President of the Labour Court’s travel by air between Durban and Johannesburg during the latest specified period of five years for which information is available, (b) how many return flights between Johannesburg and Durban during this period does this amount account for and (c) what is the reason for the frequency of these flights;

(2) whether the expenditure on these flights is regular and budgeted for; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

N131E

REPLY

1(a) The total costs incurred by my Department for flying the Judge President of the Labour Court between Durban and Johannesburg during the past five years is R298,034.00.

1(b) The number of return flights between Johannesburg and Durban during the five year period is as follows:

Year Return Flights (Jhb – Durban – Jhb) Single Trips only (Either Durban to Jhb or Jhb to Durban)

2002 13 6

2003 15 5

2004 11 17

2005 23 4

2006 7 2

1(c) The reason for the frequency of the flights is because the Minister in 1998 approved Durban as the Judge President’s headquarters, thereby entitling him to the R600.00 for every 24 hours he is away from his headquarters. The Judge President therefore travels frequently between the seat of the Labour Court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg and his headquarters in Durban.

The expenditure for these flights and associated costs, like subsistence allowances are budgeted for under the allocation of the Labour Court. These budget allocations are for the Judge President and all the Judges and Acting Judges of the Labour Court. The details of the budget allocations for the Labor Court from 2001 to 2006 are listed below:

Year Budget for subsistence allowance Budget for air travel & public transport

2001/2 R 400 000.00 R 900 000.00

2002/3 R 700 000.00 R 1 150 000.00

2003/4 R 770 000.00 R 1 265 000.00

2005/6 R 400 000.00 R 816 500.00

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

QUESTION FOR WRITTEN REPLY

QUESTION NO.: 116

DATE OF PUBLICATION: 16 FEBRUARY 2007

Mrs S M Camerer (DA) to ask the Minister for Justice and Constitutional

Development:

Whether per diem allowances are paid out to the Judge President of the Labour Court; if not, why not; if so, (a) why and (b) what monthly amounts have been (i) claimed by and (ii) paid out to the Judge President over the past five years?

N132E

REPLY

(a) The Judge President of the Labour Court, like any other Judge, is paid an all inclusive subsistence allowance (per diem allowance) for every 24 hours he performs duty outside his headquarters. In terms of the Regulations to the Judges’ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act of 2001, the Judge President is paid R600.00 for every 24 hours he/she is away from their headquarters whilst on official duties.

(b) The following amounts have been claimed and paid to the Judge President:

(i) The total amount paid to the Judge President of the Labour Court for the past five years is R977 459.00. The amount claimed and paid per month is an average of between R18 000.00 and R20 460.00 per month.

(ii) The basis for the payment of the all subsistence allowance to the Judge President of the Labour Court is that the Minister of Justice, on the request of the Judge President, approved in June 1998 for the Durban Satellite Labour Court to be determined as the headquarters of the Judge President’s thereby entitling him to a payment of a per diem allowance for every time he performs official duty in Braamfontein which is the seat of the Labour Court.

Statement issued by Sheila Camerer MP, DA spokesperson on justice, 22 April 2007

ENDS