JSC grills Free State judge candidates

2011-10-12 18:35
Cape Town - The nephew of apartheid fighter Braam Fischer spoke of his failure to "take part in politics of change" in a interview with the Judicial Service Commission in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Peter Fischer, who was being interviewed for a judicial post in the Free State High Court, was asked by commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza whether he had ever been politically active.

Fischer replied that, unlike his uncle who was a previous leader of the SA Communist Party, he had "never been a communist".

"I am not a communist," he said. "I have never voted for them."

Fischer said had promised his father at the age of 19 that he would never take part in politics. He said his father had made him promise not to join any student organisation while he was studying for a law degree at the University of Cape Town.

"Depending on what one calls an activist... Yes, I made a promise to my father as 19-year-old I wouldn't become an activist."

Braam Fischer was the legal defence for a number of ANC leaders, including former president Nelson Mandela, during the Rivonia Trial in 1963 and 1964.

He was struck off the advocates' roll in 1965 and given a life sentence in 1966. He died three weeks after being released from prison in 1975.

Peter Fischer said he had contributed to the struggle in his own way by "writing letters" about what he thought about apartheid laws such as the Group Areas Act.

He said when he was young, his father was allowed to visit his uncle once a year. His father would return home with instructions to release the budgies and hamsters from their cages, because his uncle could not bear to see anything incarcerated.

"That was drummed into me as a young child," he said.

Fischer said he was challenged about his family name while he was in the navy.

"I was confronted by the chief of the navy. He asked if I was a communist. I said I am 18, a boy, I haven't thought about it yet."

Ntsebeza suggested to Fischer that he had never been involved in politics of change.

"In a nutshell, you have not engaged in politics of change either as a student or as a professional," Ntsebeza said.

He said Fischer's only relationship with politics was his membership of the Braam Fischer Memorial Trust.

Ntsebeza also questioned Fischer over his failure to join an advocate transformation group in the Free State.

Fischer said he and some of his colleagues in the Free State Bar had enquired about joining, but had never received feedback.

"None of my white colleagues at the Bar have been able to become members," Fischer said.

He added: "I have decided that I will advance what I believe in on my own platform."

Earlier, another candidate, Johan Daffue, spoke of "conservatism" in Free State legal circles. He said he had once tried to introduce a legal bursary for disadvantaged pupils, but had received just three offers for funding.

"Many are old school people. It is difficult to change them," he said.

Read more on:    jsc  |  cape town  |  bloemfontein  |  judiciary

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