JSC leans towards Judge Jappie

2012-10-17 00:00

KWAZULU-Natal finally seems set for a new deputy judge president, with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) expected to recommend Judge Achmat Jappie for the post.

Both Judge Jappie and Judge Isaac Madondo were interviewed in Cape Town yesterday and The Witness understands that the JSC has settled on Judge Jappie.

His name will be forwarded to President Jacob Zuma for appointment.

It is the third time that Judge Madondo has appeared before the JSC for a top job on the KZN bench.

Last year he lost out to Judge Chiman Patel for the judge president’s post and ealier this year he was up against Judge Fikile Mokgohloa for the post of deputy judge president.

The JSC, however, decided not to recommend either of the two and the commission went back to the drawing board.

Yesterday, it interviewed Judge Madondo once again, as well as Judge Jappie who had not been available previously.

Judge Jappie, who has effectively been the acting judge president since Judge Patel’s appointment to head the court last year and who is also the longest-serving judge on the KZN bench, was asked why he had not made himself available for the post of deputy earlier this year.

He explained that Judge Mokgohloa had asked him to support her bid, which he had done.

BDlive reported that Judge Jappie was also questioned yesterday on how important it was that there should be an African judicial leader in KZN, given its “social dynamics”.

Judge Jappie reportedly replied: “It is important. You can’t deny that KwaZulu-Natal has a large Zulu population and it can’t be downplayed that the idea that the judiciary represents the people in the province is a consideration.”

The judge, who said he had been classified by the National Party government as “other coloured, whatever that means”, told the JSC that not being from the same ethnic group as the majority in KZN had never been a problem for him and never seemed to have been one for the people of the province either, BDlive reported.

There was little doubt Judge Jappie was clearly Judge Patel’s choice for deputy and in the JSC’s closed-door deliberations on who should be recommended, it appears the majority of commissioners agreed.

Judge Madondo had a far tougher time of his interview, with Judge Patel leading the charge.

Judge Patel asked him how he felt that only three judges in the divsion had supported his nomination, two had abstained and the majority had backed Judge Jappie. Judge Madondo kept his cool, noting that the judges had their democratic right to support whom they wished.

They had preferred Judge Jappie on the basis of seniority.

However, being the most senior judge did not mean you would be appointed to lead, said Judge Madondo.

This was an apparent reference to the fact that Judge Patel himself had been less senior, but was still appointed juge president. Judge Patel also questioned why Judge Madondo did not join his brother and sister judges for morning tea.

Judge Madondo noted that Judge Patel knew he did not drink tea and he did not think it was important to do so when he had work to do.

However, when he had to interact with colleagues, he did do so.

Judge Patel also took exception to the fact that Judge Madondo had not informed the senior judge in the division when he was out of court.

This was the case in June when out of the 20 court days, he was not sitting on a case for 11 of those days and had failed to inform the senior judge.

But Judge Madondo noted that just because he was not in court did not mean that he was not working and that he was actually preparing judgments.

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