JSC interviews provide Ramaphosa with a list of nominees for top court roles
Johannesburg - The Judicial Service Commission's interviews to fill vacancies at the country's top courts were filled with testimonies of bullying, questions over controversial cases and Constitutional amendments.
The JSC began interviewing candidates for two vacant positions at the Constitutional Court on Monday. Eight candidates were interviewed and five names were chosen for President Cyril Ramaphosa's consideration.
The JSC has selected High Court Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, High Court Judge Jody Kollapen, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Mahube Molemela, SCA Judge Rammaka Mathopo and Judge Bashier Vally.
ConCourt justices are appointed for a non-renewable 12-year term. Further vacancies will open up on the court in October when Chief Justice Mogoeng retires along with judges Chris Jafta and Sisi Khampepe.
The JSC concluded interviews with 11 candidates for five Supreme Court of Appeal vacancies on Wednesday night. Three women and two males made the final list.
The following High Court judges who serve in various divisions across the country have been selected for appointment;
*Gauteng Judge Zeenat Carelse, Pretoria-based Judge Wendy Hughes, Eastern Cape Judge Nolwazi Penelope Mabindla-Boqwana, KZN Judge Trevor Richard Gorven and Gauteng Judge Selewe Peter Mothle.
Unlike with ConCourt nominees, Ramaphosa only gets five names for these SCA vacancies and will have to appoint the judges.
SCA "Top Six"
The proceedings this week were dominated by allegations of a "top six" at the SCA which has been accused of bullying junior judges.
Judge Carelse said she has had one experience with a senior judge at the SCA regarding a judgment she wrote.
She however insisted that the culture at the SCA has changed over the last few years under SCA President Mandisa Maya.
Judge Hughes had also shared a recollection of an unpleasant experience with a senior judge at the SCA while she acted at the court.
"It is very different now. Everyone writes. The dynamics and the changes that the court has been built up. Judge Maya takes the bull by the horn," Carelse said.
CR17 sealed documents
What also stood out from the interviews were some of the questions posed by EFF leader Julius Malema, a commissioner at the JSC.
On Wednesday, he took turns in grilling Gauteng High Court judge Aubrey Ledwaba - he was being interviewed for an SCA position.
Ledwaba heard the court matter of the unsealing of the CR17 documents last year following an application by the EFF.
SCA President Mandisa Maya asked Ledwaba to comment on the accusations made against him regarding the case.
Ledwaba has been labelled corrupt by people who remain unhappy with the case.
Maya asked: "Are you a corrupt judge as some have painted you?"
Ledwaba responded: "I failed to understand why there are rumours that I was protecting my colleagues and the president".
He explained that because there was never an agreement by the parties on the issue of unsealing the documents, he offered to facilitate the matter in a court hearing as it involved third parties.
Malema asked: "You went to an office and you have a meeting and you seal documents. The way you sealed them allowed the rumours to be spread and senior judges are being implicated. Do you not think it could have been handled differently? Everyone just throws a name and says this one was in CR17 documents.
Ledwaba explained: "I did not call the parties and say I will seal the documents. I said this is an issue that needs to be dealt with by the court and in the meantime let the documents remain sealed".
Malema; "My worry is we can not seal such documents of such high profile matters through a letter. If we did not come in as the EFF with a fresh application, those things would have remained sealed".
The land question
Another topic of interest this week was whether the Constitution allowed for the expropriation of land without compensation.
Judge Carelse, who was appointed to the Joburg High Court in 2009, faced questions from commissioners about the land issue boggling the country. She currently serves as an acting judge at the SCA until May.
She has acted as a judge at the Land Claims Court since 2009.
Carelse was asked by a commissioner whether she believes the Constitution currently allows for land to be expropriated without compensation. The judge said she believes it does.
Malema followed up on the question asking Carelse whether there would be an issue if the Constitution was amended to clarify the expropriation issue.
Carelse responded; "I do not think it will cause any harm. This matter has never been brought before the court. The land claims court is underfunded and undervalued. If that ( amending the law) is what is required to write the wrongs of the past then I see no issue".
Advocate Alan Dodson, who was vying for a ConCourt position, was asked whether the Constitution supported expropriation without compensation. Dodson also agreed that the law allowed for such.