JSC recommends male candidate

2013-04-11 08:32

The Judicial Service Commission has recommended a male candidate over two female candidates for appointment as the new deputy judge president of the North and South Gauteng high courts.

Judge Aubrey Ledwaba was yesterday afternoon recommended for appointment over judges Letty Molopa-Sethosa and Cynthia Pretorius.

The decision will likely raise eyebrows as the JSC has in recent times been under pressure to appoint female candidates and has repeatedly stated that it is committed to gender transformation in the judiciary.

Ledwaba will have to step into the shoes of the highly regarded Willem van der Merwe, who is well known in legal circles for a work ethic that keeps the administration of the Gauteng high courts running as smoothly as possible.

All three candidates were interviewed extensively by the commission, with Judge President Dunstan Mlambo quizzing them at length about the administration of the courts.

Ledwaba, when asked what the problems experienced in the court were, replied that "on each day there are about 100 civil trials that need to be attended to and you'll find five to ten judges available to deal with those matters".

This was an issue that all the candidates would independently confirm.

Asked what he would do to alleviate the problem of partly-heard court matters and reserved judgments, Ledwaba said that you had to speak to the offending judges and offer them assistance, but also mentioned a proposed system whereby the worst offenders would be named and shamed in the tea room of the court.

He also said that judges who reserved judgments for months should be required to give detailed reasons for not delivering them sooner.

Molopa-Sethosa, in her interview, said judges had to have it drilled into them not to accumulate partly-heard matters from the start because it was easy to "pick up one and then find yourself in deep trouble".

She also expressed shock at reserved judgments and said it was a difficult issue to provide an answer to.

Molopa-Sethosa was later criticised by MEC Faith Mazibuko, representing Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, for appearing not to have prepared for the interview.

"For such an important position we really want leadership beyond reproach, try and be more assertive," she said.

Pretorius, however, appeared to have a warmer reception.

She suggested that there should be a designated judge as well as a liaison person from the Road Accident Fund at courts to ensure that those matters did not clog the court roll.

As head of the court's criminal committee and criminal appeal committee she had helped ease a backlog by ensuring that the criminal matters started an hour earlier than civil cases.

Pretorius, who also serves on the JSC's judicial conduct committee, said it was "embarrassing" that some judgments remained reserved for so long.

She said disciplining and removing judges who were not performing was "painful" but necessary.

Mazibuko congratulated Pretorius for the work she was doing in serving the judiciary and said her achievements had been impressive.

The JSC does not give reasons for its decisions, but spokesperson Dumisa Ntsebeza said the JSC had been constrained by the fact that, despite the need for gender transformation, Ledwaba could not be passed over because he was eminently qualified.

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