I have found some disturbing judicial interplay in an otherwise mundane appeal decision about a property sale. Tucked away at the end of the decision, issued by the Supreme Court of Appeal last week, are two troubling judgments both written by acting members of that bench.
First, the characters. The five judges who heard the appeal were Jonathan Heher, Azhar Cachalia and Eric Leach, with acting appeal judges Ronnie Pillay and Shamim Ebrahim.
The sixth judicial character is a senior advocate, Dumisa Ntsebeza, who - while acting on the High Court bench in Joburg - wrote a decision that became the subject of an appeal. Ntsebeza is an influential member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and plays a decisive role in who gets appointed. Ebrahim wants promotion to the appeal court but has so far failed in her efforts at the commission; Pillay's acting stint on the appeal court suggests that he, too, hopes for permanent appointment there.
First the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had its chance; now the Supreme Court of Appeal is having a say as well. The problem causing concern to both was Judge Ntsikelelo Poswa of Pretoria, who holds the national record for delay in giving reasons for making a court order.
It's possible that Judge Poswa was merely following the example of one of South Africa's judicial leaders, Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. But the appeal court has now made it clear that when it comes to such spectacular delays the behaviour of both is unacceptable.
When Nekele Dolo's boyfriend was charged with defrauding his employers at Anglo Platinum, she needed to act quickly. If she wasn't going to be charged with him and face a long jail sentence, she had just one chance. She would have to make a full statement about her involvement in his fraudulent scheme. And if, on the basis of her statement she was called to give evidence in court, she would have to testify openly and honestly.
Dolo's statement achieved her aim: she wasn't charged and she hasn't gone to jail. The trouble is, her own bosses got to hear of her less-than-lawful activities. Now, because she colluded with her boyfriend's frauds and even though her own employers were not directly affected by her actions, she has lost her job.
Culture clashes clashes happen regularly in South Africa but seldom have I heard of anything like the full-scale divergence recounted in a Labour Court judgment last month.
Johanna Mmoledi, a woman employed at a luxury country estate, had worked for many years in the establishment's network of kitchens, where staff are ranked and ordered in the hierarchical structure of traditional French restaurants. But when she started having visions and came to believe that her ancestors required her to become a sangoma, three worlds collided.
THE surgeon discussed every aspect of the operation; he has a reputation for thoroughness as well as skill. "It won't be many years before we look back at this procedure with horror," he said. "We'll call it barbaric."
A comforting thought for our granddaughters perhaps, but not much in it for me just then. The operation was to "remove" my left breast – though it was a cancer-driven amputation we were discussing, not relocation to a more convenient site.