The Judicial Services Commission announced a shortlist of four candidates to fill a vacancy at the Constitutional Court. File Photo: Boxer Ngwenya
The Judicial Services Commission announced a shortlist of four candidates to fill a vacancy at the Constitutional Court. File Photo: Boxer Ngwenya

High court judge questioned on tough character at JSC ConCourt interviews

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Apr 12, 2021

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Johannesburg - High Court Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, who is vying for a position at the Constitutional Court, had to defend her previous record on allegations she was impatient towards her juniors and legal counsel, who have come before her court.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) is this week interviewing eight candidates for two vacant posts at the Constitutional Court.

Kathree-Setiloane was a researcher at the apex court's founding in 1995, and was appointed to the Gauteng bench in 2010.

She was the second candidate to be interviewed on Monday. She had previously been interviewed for a role at the apex court and had faced questions regarding an alleged squabble with her law clerk.

The judge explained during the latest round that the matter had been settled and she had been found to have done nothing wrong regarding the allegations made against her.

Kathree-Setiloane's interview was dominated by questions from commissioners, about her character and tough personality.

Commissioner Thandazani Madonsela questioned her regarding his own experience before her court, where she appeared to have high standards and was quite firm. Madonsela lost that case before the judge.

Kathree-Setiolane explained that her duty was to uphold the standards of the court and that her firmness and standards were not meant to disparage people.

"I expect high standards and I do it to uphold the standards of the profession. I have allowed evidence to be led, even though I may have been impatient. Being a judge is not easy. I am not a mellow person, but I try must best," the judge explained.

Kathree-Setiloane also faced a comment from EFF leader Julius Malema, a fellow JSC commissioner, who accused her of being condescending towards her juniors.

The judge defended herself and denied being rude, and explained that calling younger juniors "youth" was not a disparaging term.

Malema also questioned her understanding of judicial overreach. The judge explained that it is when courts intervene in matters of the executive.

Kathree-Setiloane cited the Constitutional Court's 2017 judgment, involving Parliament and the EFF and others. She said the court had been criticised for being involved in Parliament matters, but the court's involvement was justified.

"Where there is a fundamental right that is infringed, we are duty-bound to intervene," she explained.

Kathree-Setiloane explained that she believes judges should only speak through their judgments. She said it is safer for judges to rely on the legal bar to defend judges and the decisions they make.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo, the president of the Joburg division of the High Court, was asked whether he ever had to intervene in a dispute between Kathree-Setiloane and a colleague?

He replied: "No".

The interview process continues on Tuesday.

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