Convicted racist Vicki Momberg is going to have to represent herself in her appeal proceedings on Tuesday afternoon after firing her attorney, refusing to approach Legal Aid and repeatedly telling the court how she has been subject to abuse by the entire court system.
The high court in Johannesburg spent the entire morning dealing with Momberg’s numerous outbursts against her legal team, the prosecutor representing the state, the Equality Court, the Randburg Magistrate’s Court and Legal Aid South Africa.
Momberg was convicted on four counts of crimen injuria last year for using the k-word 48 times against SAPS officers and 10111 operators trying to help her after a smash-and-grab incident in 2016.
The presiding magistrate at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, Pravina Rugoonandan, sentenced Momberg to an effective two-year prison sentence for the crimes, though after a short prison stay she was granted bail once she succeeded in being granted leave to appeal last year.
She has now launched the appeal at the high court in Johannesburg against her conviction and sentence.
On Tuesday morning, with her new, pro bono (free of charge) legal team, advocate Anesh Sukdeo and attorney Wesley Rogers, it appeared that with brand new heads of argument the case was finally set to go ahead.
But Momberg began interrupting proceedings because she claimed she was unwilling to tolerate the media presence in the courtroom, particularly after judge Thifhelimbilu Mudaa agreed to let video cameras into the room to cover the proceedings.
When Momberg’s lawyers tried to explain that they would not be willing to launch an application to remove reporters from the courtroom, she stood up in the dock and began addressing the judge herself.
“The media have endangered my life … There’s no respect from the media,” she told the judge, claiming the media had published her contact details in the past.
She then asked to represent herself, terminating her mandate with Rogers. In doing so, because he was the instructing attorney, she accidentally prevented Sukdeo from representing her as well.
Following consultations with judge Mudau and acting judge Shanaaz Mia, the pair officially withdrew during proceedings, prompting Momberg to deliver a lengthy diatribe about how she had been mistreated by the media, the court system and Rogers, who she claimed was too aggressive. She also said he hadn’t contributed to the argument that was set to be presented to court.
However, it was Sukdeo who revealed that the media application argument was not the key factor in why Rogers and he had decided to withdraw. While he would not elaborate, he said that “99% of [the issues] did not pertain to the cameras”.
When Rogers was asked about whether he would be willing to stay on as Momberg’s attorney, he insisted that the trust relationship between himself and his client had broken down irreparably and that he “could no longer ethically act on her behalf” following her behaviour on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Jacqui Drotsky revealed to the court that Momberg had either fired or lost six legal representatives since she was arrested, mentioning how Momberg had refused a Legal Aid representative in 2016 because she refused to engage in the entity’s means test to determine if she was eligible.
Momberg, however, claimed that Legal Aid had insisted on getting power of attorney over her bank account, which was why she had turned them down.
She was also adamant that the Equality Court, which found her guilty of infringing on the dignity of victims and fined her R100,000, the Randburg court, which convicted and sentenced her, the media and Drotsky had all been responsible for victimising her.
She then asked the court for a postponement to find another legal team, though she was also willing to represent herself. “If you remove the media [from the court], I am happy to do my argument today,” she told judge Mudau.
Mudau appeared surprised at this and eventually denied her application for a postponement, considering Drotsky’s argument that the court’s time would be wasted waiting for her “in the hope” that she would find another legal team that would represent her for free.
Mudau gave Momberg the lunch break to familiarise herself with the written arguments submitted by Sukdeo and Rogers, meaning that she would have to represent herself in the appeal.
During the lunch break, Momberg repeatedly tried to approach Rogers, calling him immature for not being willing to represent her after she had disparaged him before the court.
“No more contact with me please, go away,” he told her.
When she refused to leave him alone, he then told her: “Everyone else is to blame for your bad behaviour.”