Picture: 123RF/3DRENDERINGS
Picture: 123RF/3DRENDERINGS

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has recommended a retired magistrate and an attorney for two vacancies in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. It also recommended all three candidates who were interviewed for the Free State bench.

The commission made these recommendations after interviewing seven candidates for the two vacancies in KwaZulu-Natal and three for the Free State bench at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand on Thursday night.

In KwaZulu-Natal‚ retired magistrate Khosi Hadebe and attorney Sidwell Mngadi got the nod for the posts.

It was third time unlucky for Ian Topping‚ who has been an advocate since 1992 and obtained silk status in 2014. During his third interview on Thursday‚ Topping said he thought he was competent enough to take up a position as a judge and would do a very good job.

"I am hard working‚ I am dedicated and committed to being elevated to the bench. Please view me on me. That is all I ask‚" Topping said during the interview.

When asked whether he would step back to allow for a person of a different race to be appointed to assist in transforming the judiciary‚ Topping said he had always been in support of transformation because "we have got to cure the ills of the past".

Hadebe has been a magistrate in Pinetown until her retirement in 2017. She has had acting stints in the High Court while she was magistrate during 2010‚ 2011 and 2017. "I have more acting stints in criminal than in civil courts. I have had four stints in civil courts‚" she said.

During her interview‚ Hadebe said there should be a drive by the judiciary to ensure more women are on the bench, saying there were women available in the law profession. "I happen to be one of them. If you do not get the necessary exposure‚ the impression might be that women are not there. They must be discovered‚ trained and given opportunity to act [on the bench]‚" Hadebe said.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha‚ who also sits on the JSC‚ said there had been cases of magistrates who were elevated to the bench and who had experienced difficulty. "Do you believe having served as magistrate at different levels sufficiently prepares a person to ascend to the bench? Is there something else that has to be done to smooth the passage upwards?"

Hadebe said she thought the problem of incapacity started when the regional court she headed was structured to deal exclusively with criminal matters. "Now that there is a mixture of criminal court and civil jurisdiction in the magistrate’s courts‚ this will equip magistrates to be ready‚" Hadebe said.

Commissioner Narend Singh asked Hadebe what the circumstances were that led her to resign as magistrate. She said she had done the criminal court "like forever", adding, "I had reached the ceiling".

Sidwell Mngadi‚ an attorney who left Legal Aid SA in April last year‚ has acted in the High Court for nine months. "I have prepared 25 written judgments‚ 15 or 16 are reported. I have got a passion for justice. Apart from my technical competence‚ I believe I have strong personal values. I believe in fairness and accountability. I believe I will be able to add value to the judiciary."

The commission also recommended attorney Sharon Chesiwe‚ magistrates Pitso Molitsoane and Mareena Opperman for appointment to the Free State bench.

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