Transformation, experience dominate JSC interviews for vacant ConCourt posts

2019-04-03 17:44
The Constitutional Court (Ciaran Ryan/GroundUp)

The Constitutional Court (Ciaran Ryan/GroundUp)

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The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has heard from three of the six candidates vying for two vacancies on the Constitutional Court Bench.

There are two vacancies at the apex court, following the retirements of Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Justice Bess Nkabinde.

MUST READ: Six Concourt candidates - all you need to know

First up on Wednesday morning was Judge Annali Basson, who has acted in the Constitutional Court for two terms.

Basson stressed the importance of her academic experience, saying this could help her in certain matters.

The 59-year-old High Court judge graduated cum laude from the University of Pretoria in 1984 with an LLB and then obtained an LLD from Unisa.

She was also a lecturer at Unisa for 15 years as a professor of mercantile law.

When asked by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng why she believed she deserved to be appointed, Basson said she believed she had both practical experience and academic nous.

"I believe that I have many years of practical experience spanning back to the late 80s. I believe that my academic background can assist me in dealing with very complex matters because one has to remember that when you deal with constitutional matter, sometimes it's not per se a constitutional matter, you have to be au fait with all the branches of the law."

Basson added: "I felt comfortable at the Constitutional Court. I was very conscious of the fact that this is the apex court, that it is an immense responsibility and that your judgments have a far-reaching effect."

The fifth Dan Taekwondo expert told the panel she had no hesitation describing herself as a "judicial activist".

"I have been an activist in my early years. I can't say that I have contributed to the struggles in the same way that my other brothers and sisters have. I haven't walked in their shoes, so I can't proclaim that my role was that active. But in those days I did play my little role in order to ensure that we have social transformation in our society," she said.

Basson also extolled her work to empower women.

She also spoke about her judgment in the so-called Xolobeni mining matter, in which she ruled that government could not grant rights to mine without obtaining the full consent of community members in the affected area.

Judge Goliath

The second candidate in the hot seat was the Western Cape's Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath.

Goliath, who ran her own law firm for around 15 years, has had a spent year acting in the Constitutional Court.

She has presided over several high-profile cases in recent years, including the Anene Booysen rape and murder trial. Goliath also convicted artist Zwelethu Mthethwa of killing sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo.

Similar to Basson, Goliath emphasised her cumulative experience, as well as the work she had done to empower women.

She said she had dealt with a broad range of matters as a judge.

When asked about the separation of powers, Goliath said the "judiciary is the ultimate guardian of our Constitution". She added that the judiciary "has an oversight function over the other two arms of state".

Goliath, who has in the past been outspoken about matters of transformation, told the panellists that true transformation lies in having a "transformative mind".

Judge Kollapen

Former South African Human Rights Commission head Jody Kollapen, probably the most well-known candidate - to the public at least - was asked about his relative lack of experience soon after sitting down to be interviewed.

Responding to Justice Azhar Cachalia, Kollapen said that "even in the absence in of one's experience in a particular area of law, one brings to one's work certain core skills that you must apply in any case".

He added that being a judge was an "ongoing process of learning".

This is Kollapen's second attempt for a Constitutional Court appointment. He was unsuccessful during a previous application in 2017.

He has served two terms in the Constitutional Court and during this time, penned a majority judgment in the case involving AfriForum. It related to having Afrikaans used as the main medium of instruction at the University of Pretoria.

Kollapen, in dealing with the issue of social cohesion, said dealing with racism after an incident was polarising and meant an opportunity for meaningful dialogue was lost.

Judges Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, Stevan Majiedt and Zukisa Tshiqi were expected to be interviewed after lunch.

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