JSC grills ConCourt candidate on his age with only six years to retirement

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Judge Jody Kollapen was interviewed on Monday.
Judge Jody Kollapen was interviewed on Monday.
Twitter, RSAJudiciary/@OCJ_RSA
  • The Judicial Service Commission is interviewing Constitutional Court candidates.
  • Three of the candidates were interviewed on Monday.
  • There will be another round of interviews on Tuesday.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has interviewed three out of eight candidates vying for two vacancies on the Constitutional Court Bench.

Judge Jody Kollapen was among the three that the JSC interviewed on Monday.

He has acted in the Constitutional Court for two terms and has previously unsuccessfully interviewed for a position in the country's highest court.

JSC member Julius Malema asked Kollapen about his age, saying he would serve half of what was expected of a ConCourt judge should he be appointed. Kollapen is 64 years old.

Kollapen said:

I am mindful that if I am appointed, I'll probably serve approximately six years. That will take me to age 70 and the proposition that arises is that will this be a value-for-money appointment in respect of state resources. And I think it would and I think it would be unfair to look at the remaining six years only. I think one must look at my public record from the time of the early 90s when I served in state institutions…

He also told the JSC that the idea of acting is "important because it introduces one to the environment of the court, the disciplinaries required there [and] the ability to work under pressures of that particular court…"

Some of the groundbreaking cases Kollapen has adjudicated include a judgment on parenthood. He ruled that a grandmother who looked after a child should benefit from the child's estate. The child, who had cerebral palsy, died at age five, leaving about R15 million.

The child's father had not seen him since he was six months old, his mother suffered from depression and his grandmother raised him, GroundUp reported.

Kollapen ruled that the mother and the grandmother should share the estate and not the father.

LIVE | Day 2 of interviews for ConCourt posts

In 2012, Kollapen ordered the national and Limpopo education departments to deliver textbooks to the province's schools urgently.

The departments had failed to deliver all textbooks by specified deadlines and failed to devise a catch-up plan for children and teachers.

At the time, Kollapen said the basic education department's failure to deliver textbooks for Limpopo pupils violated their constitutional right to education.

The panel also interviewed Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, who said she believed she can contribute to transforming society through the Constitution and the work done at the court.

She said:

I believe I can make a contribution to the court as a woman judge, and I can set an example as a woman judge.

READ MORE | 'I believe I can make a contribution to the Court as a woman judge,' says ConCourt candidate

Senior advocate Alan Dodson was also in the hot seat on Monday.

He said he would bring a wide range of experience with him to the Constitutional Court should he be appointed.

He also said one could not discount the 20 years he spent in practice, half of those as senior counsel.

Dodson was also a judge of the Land Claims Court from 1995 to 2000. He served as an acting judge in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg and in the Labour Court.

Dodson also appeared in various courts to argue cases. "It isn't only experience sitting as a judge that prepares one for adjudication. It is also working as counsel that prepares one for adjudication," he told the JSC.

Malema asked why the commission should consider him, a white male, over someone from a previously disadvantaged group.

Malema also asked Dodson what made him special or unique and if appointing him will advance the judiciary's transformation.

Dodson said he doesn't believe he is unique or special, but that transformation is not solely about demographics but also about bringing a different adjudication style. He also said transformation goes much wider.

The JSC interviews will continue on Tuesday morning.

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