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MBABANE – The mere knowledge of a litigant cannot disqualify a presiding judge from hearing a matter.

Judge Mumcy Dlamini said this was especially so considering the size of the footprint within which the court can make legal decisions and judgments.

Judge Dlamini said this yesterday when dismissing the recusal application, which had been filed by the executor of the estate of the late Solveig Crabtree, Alan Alexander McGregor.

The estate of Crabtree includes the property that McGregor sold to Dups Holdings for E28 million. Dups in turn sold the property to the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF) for E74 million.


The property consists of land measuring 2182 hectares with a tree plantation, buildings and infrastructure situated at Tonkwane Estate.
Businessman Walter Bennett wants the court to interdict the transfer of all shares in respect of T1 and T2 Property (Pty) Limited sold to Dups Holdings unless his one per cent share from the properties is catered for in Form C.

The executor told the court that the transfer of the property and the shares to Dups Holdings had already happened.
During hearing of the matter, McGregor filed an application for the recusal of Judge Dlamini from the matter because she had mentioned in open court that she knew some of the parties involved in the matter. 

McGregor said Judge Dlamini mentioned that she knew some of the Crabtrees very well but he did not think much of it until the judge showed particular interest in one of the cases consolidated with Bennett’s application.


In her judgment, Judge Dlamini mentioned that she had said that she knew one of the Crabtrees who was a lady who used to run a preschool.
“I mentioned this in open court in the presence of both counsel. None of the parties raised an objection.

‘‘A reasonable litigant would have been expected that if the information conveyed by the court on the very first day of the estate’s case to the effect that the presiding judge knew one of the Crabtrees raised reasonable prospects of bias, would have stood up at that point to submit that the court ought to recuse itself,” Judge Dlamini said.

The judge stated that the information that she knew some of the Crabtrees could not have raised a reasonable apprehension of bias because the parties understood it as general knowledge attracting no special relationship.


“Surely if the information that I knew very well the lady who used to run the pre-school and her children is anything to go by, there would have been no need for Mr Magagula to enquire from the applicant (McGregor) who exactly these people were,” the judge added.
In dismissing the recusal application, Judge Dlamini ordered McGregor to pay costs de bonis proriis (out of his own pocket), including costs of senior counsel.


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