FULL TEXT: JSC interview with Mabel Jansen

2016-05-11 13:32
Judge Mabel Jansen. (Twitter)

Judge Mabel Jansen. (Twitter)

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2016-05-10 06:52

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Judicial Service Commission

Transcript of interview with Adv M M Jansen

October 2013

CHIEF JUSTICE: Good evening Ms Jansen.

ADV JANSEN: Good Evening Chief Justice and Commissioners.

CHIEF JUSTICE: I hope you are not nervous at all.

ADV JANSEN: I think if one comes here and one is not nervous, then one is rather, I would put it, arrogant and I am nervous.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Alright, let’s try and make it a bit easier for you. You’ve been an advocate for many years now. Is that correct?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I’ve been an advocate since 1984.

CHIEF JUSTICE: And you’ve had a number of pupils pass through your hands.

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I did. They inundated me with pupils when I started off at the Bar.

CHIEF JUSTICE: And correct me if I’m mistaken, one of your pupils was Monica Leeuw, the JP of the North-West High Court.


CHIEF JUSTICE: And how many other women did you mentor?

ADV JANSEN: I had another woman. I am trying to remember her name, but she’s in New Zealand at this point in time.


ADV JANSEN: I will remember her name, but she was highly competent actually.

CHIEF JUSTICE: You also served in the Pretoria Bar Council as well as the General Council of the Bar.

ADV JANSEN: That is correct.

CHIEF JUSTICE: You’ve acted as a judge.

ADV JANSEN: I have acted as a judge, yes.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Is it fair to assume that your acting stint was not as difficult as it would have been for a person who was not senior counsel before?

ADV JANSEN: I believe that it was easier in that ... well, I can’t speak for people who haven’t been there, but it is difficult under normal circumstances, I believe, to control a court.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Did you enjoy it?

ADV JANSEN: I really did, because I love the challenge of all the different cases and so on.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Did you get support from your senior colleagues on the bench?

ADV JANSEN: Well, let me put it this way. When I started off, my first acting stint was in 1999. Then I had some support and from other quarters I didn’t have support. In 2003 I acted again and the atmosphere had changed to a certain extent and there were more women advocates appearing before me, but I still had some ... there seemed to be two groups and currently it’s just a pleasure.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Well, at some stage women at the Bar, irrespective of colour, found it very difficult to sustain their practices. Was that your experience too?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I remember I was in ... what they did with us when we were junior advocates is they put us all into one building, in the Standard Bank building on Church Square and I was nearly the next door neighbour of Dikgang Moseneke and we used to drink a lot of coffee. That’s all we did, because in the first three months at the Bar I earned exactly R25.00. I remember how we would go to our little pigeonholes and hoped that we had work, but come back empty handed and then we would drink coffee again.

It wasn’t easy and everybody, all the judges at that point in time said to me, you know, you should go back. I actually had judges yelling and shouting at me and telling me that I should go back to the kitchen and look after my children and had they not done so, maybe I would have gone back to my home, but because they made it difficult for me, I decided that I would show them that I am actually capable as a woman to maintain myself and build up a practice.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Is it fair to assume that at the time when you were elected to serve in the Pretoria Bar Council and the General Council of the Bar the situation had changed somewhat in relation to attitudes towards women?

ADV JANSEN: It had really changed roundabout the year 2003. Then first I served as a member of the Bar Council for quite a number of years. Then I was the vice chair and then I became chair for two successive periods and I had the support of all my senior colleagues at that point. They were very kind and friendly towards me.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Very briefly why do you believe you are ready for the bench now?

ADV JANSEN: I had a hiatus period in my life between 2003 until I acted again this year for the simple reason that I had just started off at the Bar in 1984 and a year and a half later I became pregnant in 1986 with my first child and I actually had to go to court 9 months and 6 days pregnant and do a court case. I carried heavy suitcases to the Johannesburg Court, did the trial, went into labour that evening, gave birth to my daughter that Saturday morning and I was back at chambers on the Thursday. So, I actually had four or five days off, that’s it.

         Then I had Loanda Xulu. My mom came from Natal. My parents came from Natal and they had my mother, Petile Isilziwe Kangilozi and she took in Sibongile Xulu and when she had children, I adopted them, as it were, and I looked after them. So, Loanda was born in 1987. I then suffered three miscarriages, because I could never take time off, because if I did take time off, attorneys would stop briefing me.

         Then thereafter I tried very hard to become pregnant and I got pregnant with my last child. Well, Bongani was born in, Bongani Xulu was born in 1993 and then my last child was born in 1995 and my husband said I should take it more peacefully and look after my daughter. That is why to a certain extent at that point I decided to look after her, because it was hard to deal with the blows of losing three children and I have now reached the point where I believe that I have done everything that I can do in the form of being a senior counsel and I believe I could serve a purpose as a judge.


JP MLAMBO: Thank you CJ. Judge Jansen, I’ve put a spreadsheet in front of you there where I’ve captured your acting stints thus far. Have you looked at it?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I have.

JP MLAMBO: Do you confirm the information you see there? The numbers you see depict weeks. So, by the end of this term that we are on, you will have done 30 weeks.

ADV JANSEN: That is correct.

JP MLAMBO: Now, you’ve given me, by the end of this term you would have given me three terms basically.

ADV JANSEN: That is correct.

JP MLAMBO: Right. You’ve served in the third motion court.

ADV JANSEN: I have served quite often in the third motion courts, which I enjoy.

JP MLAMBO: You’ve also served in the urgent court.

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I have and that I enjoy even more. I actually like the adrenalin rush.

JP MLAMBO: And you’ve served in appeals.

ADV JANSEN: Yes, most definitely.

JP MLAMBO: Have you sat in full benches?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I’ve sat in full benches.

JP MLAMBO: And have you written some full bench judgments?

ADV JANSEN: Because the judges with whom I sat were judges like William De Villiers and Judge Van der Walt and the like, they were clearly so senior that they insisted on writing the judgments, but to a large extent I wrote segments of it, which they’ve then accepted as correct and would just make a few changes to it.

JP MLAMBO: Now, you’ve also been lucky. You’ve done more third court work than the normal opposed motion work. How did you get that right?

ADV JANSEN: In a very strange way. I first studied languages. Then I went to an advertising agency where I was a copywriter and in doing so, I gleaned a lot of experience with trademarks and copyright and the like and the terminology and as a result of that, I was briefed to go before the Advertising Standards Authority. From there I was briefed to go to the Registrar of Trademarks. From there I was briefed to go the Patent Court and the like, because these firms of attorneys are intellectual property attorneys. So, if you would do one section of the intellectual property law, you get the other sections as well.

         Hence all these cases usually, especially a patent matter, might take three, four, five years to finalise and hence one always asks for a third court, because the matter will take about five, six, seven, maybe ... I was once in a trial of three months, for example. So, it is an interesting field in which to specialise.

JP MLAMBO: In terms of your deployment in the Gauteng High Court, I don’t know if I understood your answer well that serving there now was a pleasure. Did I understand you to say that?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I really love it.

JP MLAMBO: Why do you say that?

ADV JANSEN: I find there is a collegiality there. I find that there is support. I find that there is a warmth. I find that people are extremely supportive and I can go across to my next door neighbour and say that maybe I don’t quite understand what this is and they would assist me, which was an absolute no-no in very early years when I first acted as a judge. I’ve been treated very fairly, very equally. I believe that made my tenure so much easier and so much more enjoyable.

JP MLAMBO: Thank you CJ.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you JP. MEC Creecy?

MEC CREECY: Thank you very much, JP, good afternoon advocate.

ADV JANSEN: Good afternoon, Commissioner.

MEC CREECY: Share with us your understanding of transformation of the judiciary.

ADV JANSEN: I believe that it has a lot to do with the three segments of what we shall call the ... well, we have the Executive, we have the Judiciary and we have the Legislative Branch. It was said in the first certification matter that even though a senate was part of parliament, I think Sections 59, 60 and 61 with the forms and manner in which one puts states there, that was cast in stone, hence there was a division of the branches.

         Why I mention the fact that there must be a division of the branches and they must be separate is because we have to work, all three divisions have to work to...

CHIEF JUSTICE: I think you misunderstood the MEC’s question. It wasn’t about separation of powers, but your understanding of transformation. Did I understand you, transformation, not separation of powers?

ADV JANSEN: Yes. The transformation basically is that we should try and reach the goals and the objects of the Constitution and in doing so, we must address a lot of issues such as access to courts, monetary matters and the like. I wrote in one of my judgments that I submitted was to that effect, and in general just to get to a point where the disadvantaged are in exactly the position of the advantaged and we can say that we are in an African Renaissance period, because we are actually giving effect to the goals of the Constitution and we should be working thereto.

         For example, if one has an independent judiciary, one also has access to courts and the like. So, I see transformation as across the board, trying to give effect to the judiciary, but with a great emphasis on the fact that women should be elected and there should be more of the disadvantaged advocates and judges and the like so that we do achieve the equality that everybody wants to have.

COMMISSIONER CREECY: So, I mean, essentially what you are saying to us is that it’s about representation of women on the bench.

ADV JANSEN: It is about representation of women on the bench. It’s also about changing courts to give access to the courts. It’s also about changing viewpoints, socio-economic aspects and the like. All of that will transform the judiciary into a judiciary which is truly representative of the goals and the objects of the Constitution.

MEC CREECY: And if we were to put you forward for nomination, for appointment as a judge, how would you see yourself as a change agent as a judge in this transformation process?

ADV JANSEN: How I could contribute? I believe I could contribute to a large extent, because in maintaining the position that I did in actually fighting apartheid, because I started off in 1984, I demonstrated that one can accomplish something against great odds and it was not easy. It was a difficult process for me and I saw all the different cases that we went through and as a result of that, I believe I know what hardship means. I know what it is to be in a disadvantaged position.

I know what the effect is of Section 27 that one should have the State looking at socio-economic problems and the like and I believe that I could, by demonstrating that a mother of four can maintain a role and have a strong say and an individual say about things, send out a message that transformation is here to stay and will continue. I also believe that one could have a strong voice in applying the Constitution in a way which assists transformation.


CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you MEC and before I forget, you have had female pupils, but have you led women as senior counsel? Have you led women juniors as senior counsel and, if so, how many?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I just want to ... I have remembered my pupil’s name. Her name was Iska Harican and she is now in New Zealand. Yes, I have had Portia Nakuta, Dikeledi who is brilliant. I have had Issie Schemming Chaz. She is from Namibia and she was, at a point in time she was the head of the Fuse Bar there. I have often led women. I have led Helen from our Bar. I have gone out of my way to try and get women and it is very difficult to do that, because even today in this age it is difficult. Attorneys find it difficult to accept that a female Silk can actually do a trial, especially in a matter regarding something like Bovine Somatotropin, which is something that one injects cows with so that they can give more milk and things like that.

         So, they don’t believe that a woman can do that. So, they are very hesitant to brief another woman with you. I found that, but nonetheless I managed to get for example Issie Chaz to be my junior in difficult patent matters and that for me was a victory, because Issie showed just how good she was and that she was brilliant and she has now acted I think on two or three occasions in Namibia in the courts there. So yes, I have actively gone out of my way to get women to be my juniors.


MEC PHALA: Thanks CJ. I just want to proceed on this angle of transformation. Previously, as you will of course know, the judiciary was a primary province essentially of white males.

ADV JANSEN: I know that too well.

MEC PHALA: That’s right, so part of the work of the new democratic dispensation is to build a representative judiciary in terms of bringing as many black people as possible and women as possible.

ADV JANSEN: I agree with that 100%. I believe that is very important to look at that facet. I think it’s very important to brief women. If one looks at the statistics, there are only about 30% of the judges who are women, say for example up in Natal, Gauteng bench I believe. They’ve done the exercise. If one looks at the judges on the Constitutional Court, there aren’t many women. Those who were there were brilliant. They did a good job.

So, women are capable of doing it. The perception is there that if you have children you won’t be able to dedicate yourself to the job, but the contrary is true. If you have time management, then you can actually manage everything. It’s difficult. The workload is very hard. You must be very dedicated to do that.


CHIEF JUSTICE: And what percentage do women represent in the attorney’s profession and the advocate’s profession?

ADV JANSEN: In the advocate’s profession I found it’s very interesting. When last I was in the unopposed motion court, I’m talking about 2003, one would perhaps see one or two or three females, very few. I was astounded to see that when I was presiding over the unopposed motion court, that there were more females than men and this also applies to the roll call in South Gauteng.

The other very endearing factor that I found with one of the advocates who appeared before me, she was eight months pregnant and having had so much difficulty and resistance when I was pregnant and the men refusing to help me at all, I was told that I am in a man’s profession, I should act like a man and they wouldn’t even help me carry my bags or whatever and I accepted that. Ultimately the judges will be carrying my bags and I was feeling embarrassed about it.

But the point is simply that I believe there is a growth, a definite growth in the females coming to the Bar, the women coming to the Bar, but there is also unfortunately a haemorrhage of them leaving, because they have children and the like, but now the Bar Councils give one maternity leave and the like. In my day and age it didn’t exist, so it makes it easier.

CHIEF JUSTICE: I just wanted to know, I think the attorneys are what, some 20 000 or something, 25 000? How many of them are women? And the advocates I think are about 5 000, is it?


CHIEF JUSTICE: 2800. How many of them are women?

ADV JANSEN: Very view, about 25%.

CHIEF JUSTICE: 25% of both?

ADV JANSEN: When I’ve last seen...

CHIEF JUSTICE: And 25% of the attorneys and 25% of the advocates?

ADV JANSEN: There are much more attorneys who are there and can maintain their position, because then they go on maternity leave, they actually do have a backup system, but when...

CHIEF JUSTICE: I was just asking about the numbers.

ADV JANSEN: I would say about, at this point a third, but that is ... I must add a proviso to that. That third will whittle away, but new blood comes then. So, it fluctuates to a large extent.


MEC MASUKU: Thank you CJ. Adv Jansen, are there still remnants, because I’m taking it from the age and experience and the fact that you were mentioning that you have been fighting a lot. So, I’m saying are there still remnants of apartheid in the justice system that we need to pay attention to with regard to serving the poor, the farm workers and the homeless? I’m raising this because the majority of them tend to say that justice doesn’t serve them and if it does, it is delayed.

ADV JANSEN: That is absolutely correct. There are remnants of apartheid and hence one has to have things such as the Judicial Service Commission, the Superior Courts Act, the Magistrates’ Commission, the Rules Board, etc, etc, to assist in giving access to courts making it easier for people, legislature such as the National Credit Act and the like.

         What I do find is that even now as a Silk whenever I lose a case, I’m not briefed again. That is the sanction that one gets, not from attorneys who are loyal to you and who have known you for quite a while and who have briefed you consistently, but an attorney who asks you for the first time to do a case and you do it to the best of your ability and you draft the papers, even as a Silk, if you lose a case, the sanction is that they say well you briefed to a woman, that’s the reason why you lost the case.

I believe that my black colleagues to some extent also experience that and I find that there are very few black female advocates who managed to get good jobs. If the State Attorney gets the allotted work, then you are in the pound seats, but if the State Attorney, if you don’t know the State Attorney and you come from an area such as Venda or somewhere where you don’t really know people, you will find difficulties.

MEC PHALA: And should you get appointed, what are these things that you will be advocating that must be changed immediately in order to clear all this?

ADV JANSEN: I would believe that briefing patterns would be very important, because I remember sitting in 2003 and the State Attorney was sitting there and I was one of about three Silks at the Pretoria Bar, female Silks, and the statement was made by the State Attorney then that they were briefing women. So, I put up my hand and I said do you know what my name is? And he said no. And I said, well, I’ve been practicing – it was at that point that I have been practicing for close on 23 years or whatever, 22 years. He didn’t even know my name. I said how can you say that you are briefing women if you don’t even know what my name is. I’m one of the three Silks at the Pretoria Bar and I said it cannot be accurate.

         So, they had a very small pool of advocates whom they actually briefed and I found that very unfair. So, what one should do is speak out about this and make it public and also see to it that attorneys are not in a position to fire you merely because you are a female. I found that the most bizarre and strangest reasoning.

MEC PHALA: Thank you very much. Thank you CJ.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you MEC. Commissioners, Commissioner Hellens?

COM HELLENS: Have you done any criminal work?

ADV JANSEN: Mr Commissioner, I don’t whom to address this. Well, you were putting up your hand. I apologise. Mr Commissioner, could you just repeat the question?

COM HELLENS: Sorry, have you done any criminal work, either at the Bar or on the Bench?

ADV JANSEN: I have had very little criminal experience, because when I started off at the Bar, well for two years I basically lived off pro deos, because that was the only way that I could get any money and that was difficult, because one had to defend poor accused who had the death penalty hanging over their heads. So, one took extra care and trouble to learn the criminal procedures and the criminal act, etc, etc.

          I’ve always had an interest in it and looked at cases and read up on them, but I was never actually briefed in criminal cases, because they perceived women as being advocates who should do divorce matters and thank goodness I got out of that vortex, because I just decided that, well I was briefed more and more in the intellectual property field, but when acting as a judge, I have done, on the one session I think it was 2003, I basically only did criminal appeals. I was inundated with criminal appeals. So, in that respect I do have experience of criminal law, but I never had a criminal practice per se, but one can’t have that and be specialised. It’s impossible.

         What I did try to do, I didn’t want to put all my eggs into one basket. I tried to read up on the case law and stay au fait with everything and I went to seminars and the like and I have a keen interest in all aspects of the law, so I try to keep abreast of everything, if that answers your question, Mr Commissioner.

COM HELLENS: Thank you.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Prof Schlemmer?

PROF SCHLEMMER: Good afternoon ma'am. Can you tell us something about your judicial philosophy and your understanding of the rule of law?

ADV JANSEN: I went to the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Conference, which was very interesting, because it was all about the rule of law. The judiciary must look at the reason ... I think it was Justice Satchwell who said this. One must look at the legality, the reasonableness and the compliance with the Bill of Rights in respect of maintaining the rule of law.

         Hence one cannot even begin to practice without an in-depth knowledge of the Constitution, because it impacts on such, not mundane things, but it impacts on so much. It impacts on what public policy is and how courts perceive public policy and the like. One must have the knowledge of the fact that even what the boni mores is dictating and what public policy dictates is informed by the values of the Constitution and one must strive to give effect to the goals and the purport of the Constitution in order to become a leader, I believe, in the entire Africa, because we are getting more and more communication where we are working together with the countries of Africa and I believe we could be a leader in that field if we write judgments, which accord with the rule of law.

PROF SCHLEMMER: And your judicial philosophy.

ADV JANSEN: Judicial philosophy, I believe that one should of course be impartial. One must try and see to it that one addressed what one believes are wrongs, if one can. Of course, one has to work at all relevant times within the parameters of the law, but given the wide ambit of the Constitution, one can be using sections which allow one, like Section 39, which allows one to build on the common law, interpret the common law and the like.

One can bring about change without going beyond the ambit of the Constitution, because I believe as Justice Ackerman said, one can be very adventurous, which is wrong, and one can be very timid, which is also wrong, but one should strive to be more adventurous and that is one thing that I have done throughout my legal career.

I have looked and I’m thankful that there is now a section in this Constitution and I want to do so when there is a Constitutional matter. I often looked at foreign law and did a comparative legal study and found that very interesting, because we are not an island unto ourselves and most advocates don’t do that exercise. One must do and do that exercise oneself. We should try and align ourselves to a large extent with the rest of the world and see what they have to say, what the United Nations has to say about an independent judiciary and the like and that is what I have tried to do in my judgements and what I have tried to do in my cases.

I’m proud to say that I have actually brought about changes in intellectual property law in the Supreme Court of Appeal due to the research that I did and changed the law in that respect and that is a good feeling to be vindicated by the Supreme Court of Appeal, because I had seniors and colleagues who said to me are you insane, are you mad to put forward an argument like this and I said, well, the Supreme Court of Appeal might just uphold it and I believe in the merits of it.

So, I kept on telling my colleagues we can’t stay in a stagnant era. We must move forward and we must be proactive and that would be my judicial philosophy.

PROF SCHLEMMER: Thank you for that. Just one other aspects – I see that the Johannesburg Bar commented on the delay sometimes in the handing down of your judgments. Can you comment on that?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, that was only one delay and that was this year. The one case that I got was absolutely basically impossible to decide. What happened to me was it was a third court matter set down for about 5 days and I have an extremely busy practice and with patent matters one has interlocutaries constantly and Rule 35(3) notices and the like being served on one. One can’t foresee what is going to happen.

         What happened to me was that I was assured by the counsel appearing before me that I could hear the matter, because they had lost the transcript, which happened to be 30 volumes. It had been lost somewhere in the building and they assured me that because it was a review application of three arbitrators, there is a commentary about the Johannesburg Bar Council on the judgment that I wrote. It was Carlio versus PUTCO and I had to do a lot of research and even the three ... there was first an arbitrator who is very well known, Peter Solomon and he wrote a learned judgment, as it were, as an arbitrator. Then there was a panel of three very senior, two retired judges and a Silk and it took them about three months to write the judgement full time.

         Over and above that, I had a review of what had happened before the arbitrators and I had to go through the Heads of Argument, because the way in which they argued the matter before the arbitrators could change the terms of reference and have an impact on how I was to look at the matter. So, I had to read through all those Heads of Argument and trust me, they were that thick on both sides and for the review itself I had exactly the same, Heads of Argument that thick and I had to consider completely different aspects there and I had to consider regarding the arbitration process and what the arbitration agreement entailed.

         So, there were approximately 15, 16, 17 very intricate and difficult questions that I had to go and look at and form an opinion about and I ultimately differed from two very prominent ex judges and a senior counsel. They have asked, I’m going to hear an application for leave to appeal and of course I will grant it, because it is a very intricate question, but there is a stark dichotomy between what Peter Solomon decided and what the three arbitrators decided and they are all ... Peter Solomon is highly regarded, probably the best arbitrator in South Africa, well he is considered as one of the best and the three judges, the retired judges and the Silk were all highly competent. This matter I had to hear in vacu as it were without having read the 3 000-page record.

PROF SCHLEMMER: I think I’m satisfied. I don’t think you need to explain.

ADV JANSEN: So, over and above my usual workload, because that is a problem when one acts as a judge, I had to contend with that and that is the delay.

PROF SCHLEMMER: So, that is definitely an exception to the rule.

ADV JANSEN: It was a complete exception to the rule.

PROF SCHLEMMER: Thank you very much, Chief Justice.

ADV JANSEN: It was just a very difficult matter.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you Prof. Commissioner Semenya?

COM SEMENYA: Thank you Chief Justice. Adv Jansen, you and I perhaps more than 10 years ago worked together in the GCB.

ADV JANSEN: That is correct. I remember it very well.

COM SEMENYA: We wrestled with the issues of transformation very fiercely.


COM SEMENYA: I do want to place on record that when you were serving as the chair of the Pretoria Bar and your committee of Silks were considering applications in respect of one particular individual whose name is irrelevant, you saw fit to invite me from Johannesburg to motivate for the committee to consider favourably that applicant.


COM SEMENYA: I read from it that you, which is an unusual step on your part, but I did read from that that you were apprehensive that your committee may not have gone with you in respect of a positive recommendation for that candidate. Without sharing who, what were the sensitivities around that matter?

ADV JANSEN: It was simply the perception at that point that there was not a necessity for drastic transformation at that point and I had a very male dominated Bar Council, which made it even more astounding that they actually chose me as their chair and it wasn’t a popular vote and voted me in again for a second term. So, I did stand by my man there and I believe that if you were to come and persuade them that there was merit, because I knew there was merit in the matter, then it would greatly assist and I’m still indebted to you.

COM SEMENYA: Thank you Chief Justice.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Well, from what the two of you are saying, in that coded language it looks like it’s a woman that you were speaking for. Am I mistaken, or a black person?

ADV JANSEN: It was a black person.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Alright, thank you. Commissioner Van der Merwe?

COM VAN DER MERWE: Thank you Chief Justice. Good afternoon Mrs Jansen.

ADV JANSEN: Good afternoon, Mr Van der Merwe.

COM VAN DER MERWE: When the MEC asked you about remnants of apartheid, you said yes, there are some left and then one example that you mentioned was that an attorney, when you lose a case, the attorney will not brief you again. Now, how can that be a remnant of apartheid if they lose confidence in an advocate?

ADV JANSEN: I shall rephrase it in this way. It was such a male dominated arena and the inequality was so stark and that did come to a large extent from apartheid. It was seen that especially if you were black, but even if you were a woman, that was the one thing that amazed me most of all, was that they had no faith in you. It was the strangest phenomenon. You are pinpointing something which I couldn’t understand myself.

COM VAN DER MERWE: I don’t think it has anything to do with apartheid, but I notice that in...

ADV JANSEN: Well, apartheid between men and women, for sure.

COM VAN DER MERWE: I noticed that they say versatility as a jurist and a linguist is impressive. What do they mean that you are a good linguist?

ADV JANSEN: [French]


ADV JANSEN: [French]

COM VAN DER MERWE: [Ethnic language]

ADV JANSEN: [Ethnic language]

COM VAN DER MERWE: Okay, the last question is who was your father?

ADV JANSEN: My father was Ernest Louis Jansen.



COM VAN DER MERWE: Was he a politician?

ADV JANSEN: No, he was never a politician. He was an advocate. I think many of the qualities that I inherited...

COM VAN DER MERWE: No, I’m sorry, he wasn’t EG Jansen.

ADV JANSEN: EG Jansen was my grandfather.

COM VAN DER MERWE: Your grandfather?


COM VAN DER MERWE: Oh, I see. But what was he? Was he Governor General?

ADV JANSEN: He was the Governor General of South Africa, yes.

COM VAN DER MERWE: I see, so you are a princess.

ADV JANSEN: I doubt it. I’ve never felt like a princess. I was the raggedy Ann of the legal profession for many, many years. I had to battle, really battle to make it. I cannot even begin to explain what an uphill battle it was.

COM MABUNDA: Advocate, I see that you were a chair of a commission of inquiry in the Vaal University of Technology.

ADV JANSEN: Yes, that is correct.

COM MABUNDA: Do you have the report of your findings? The report of your findings, do you have it of that commission of inquiry?

ADV JANSEN: Yes, I wrote an enormous report. I heard something in the order of 57 witnesses. I sat with two black commissioners and we finalised the report and then thereafter there were disciplinary proceedings before a 3-bench disciplinary board and they held the relevant Vice Chancellor guilty of something in the order of 120 counts of fraud, misconduct and the like.

COM MABUNDA: It will be of interest to me to have that report.

ADV JANSEN: With the greatest of pleasure.

COM MABUNDA: Thank you. I further note that you were asked what you would regard as the most significant contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice in South Africa and you wrote, I quote “assisting with the Advocates for Transformation plus chairing the Bar Council meeting where it was resolved that 50% of our Bar Council would consist of black members”. I would like to commend you for that effort.

ADV JANSEN: Thank you.

COM MABUNDA: And having chaired, resulting in that particular resolution, because that is what we call a contribution and advancement towards a just cause.

ADV JANSEN: Thank you very much.

COM MABUNDA: Thank you Chief Justice.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you Commissioner Mabunda. You are excused ma’am.

ADV JANSEN: Thank you so much.


COM VAN DER MERWE: [Microphone not on].

ADV JANSEN: Yes, my grandmother was Mabel. I just want to emphasise that my father was completely apolitical, because Baron, their journalist, who always writes the most horrific things about so-called apartheid’s judges wrote about my father, a judge above politics, because he actually allowed ... he was a voice crying in the dessert saying that Mandela required legal representation and all kinds of things that we find in the Constitution these days and he voiced those opinions a long time ago and he wasn’t afraid to do so.

CHIEF JUSTICE: I had dismissed the Commissioner. I had excused her.

ADV JANSEN: I apologise, Chief Justice.

Read more on:    mabel jansen  |  judiciary  |  racism

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