Look at ability, judge tells JSC
Cape Town - The frontrunner for the post of judge president of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court has dismissed calls for his race to play a role in his selection for the job.
The individual selected should be chosen for his ability to give leadership, Judge Chiman Patel told the Judicial Service Commission in Cape Town on Wednesday.
"If he has the qualities of leader then he is able to lead," Patel said in response to a question from commissioner Koos van der Merwe on there being no Indian judge presidents in South Africa.
"My colleagues feel I have that. I have no difficulties."
The commission was interviewing Patel for the position concerned.
Patel, who has sat on the Supreme Court of Appeal, was once a lecturer of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the then University of Natal.
He was appointed acting judge president of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court more than a year ago, after the death of judge president Herbert Msimang.
He was nominated for the position by 14 judges in the division. He also has the overwhelming support of the KwaZulu-Natal Bar.
A small faction of judges, and the Black Lawyers Association in Pietermaritzburg however, favour Judge Njabuliseni Madondo for the post.
Patel said running the court had been challenging, but with the co-operation of his colleagues "all has gone well".
He said there were 427 applications for leave to appeal outstanding at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg. By October, these had been reduced to 249.
"We are committed that by February next year there will be no backlogs for leave to appeal," he said.
Patel, who has been on the bench for 12 years, said transformation was "a big challenge" to all divisions in South Africa.
Work as a team
In his interview, Madondo said there was no animosity with fellow judges at the moment.
"We respect each other. There is nothing," he said.
He said the most important thing for a judge was to provide effective, efficient, accountable, quality justice.
"To do that you have to work as a team. We have to rise above political interests and ambitions and do something for the greater good of the province."
Asked whether an Indian candidate should be appointed, he said demographics had to be taken into account.
Indians only represented 8% of the population, while 86% of the population was black, he said.
"We still have things to address... imbalances and things... which needs more insight.
"The crux of the matter is who can best do the job. If it is the feeling of the JSC I can occupy position, then I will take it."