Cachalia against numbers game

2009-09-20 20:34

Johannesburg - Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Azhar Cachalia told the Judicial Service Commission on Sunday that he was against “the numbers game” when it came to deciding whether to appoint black or white judges.

“If me or my family or anybody who appears before a judge I don’t want a judge that looks like me, I want a judge who is fair,” he said during his interview for one of four positions on the Constitutional Court.

He was responding to a question by Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille on whether Indian and coloured people are included in the definition of “blacks”.

He said that although broad based economic empowerment legislation defined black as black, coloured and Indian, this was something people got “caught up in”.

The focus should rather be on appointing a competent no racist and non sexist judiciary.

Quota for Jews

He said that during the rule of apartheid era National Party, whose policies were based on separating blacks and whites, they selected from a pool of white judges, and there was a strong feeling that they set quotas for jews.

“There could not be more than one or two in the Appeal Court. They excluded everybody else and within the white group they played the numbers game and that I feel very strongly about and we can’t play the numbers game.”

He did say “it does not work that way” to properly represent every race group.

He said it would be “a problem” if Indians were appointed to the national rugby team because “they are built smaller”, setting off chuckles around the room.

The thought that he would be appointed by the JSC because he is Indian detracted from the process of finding competent people.

JSC commissioner Koos van der Merwe of the Inkatha Freedom Party said he had been with the National Party and had not heard of this to which Cachalia responded that was how they interpreted “what was happening on the bench”.

Judges with no discernable legal ability were “deployed” and “these people were visited on us”.

'Political hacks'

They didn’t know the law and were “political hacks”, he said.

Earlier, he denied that he had considered withdrawing from the application saying he had just asked former Constitutional Court Judge Johann Kriegler if he should stay at the SCA longer. All the candidates had been asked about reports that they had to be convinced not to withdraw their application.

He said he was disappointed that colleague Judge Robert Nugent had withdrawn his application saying he “felt uncomfortable with the process in the present climate”.