For the two weeks between 18 and 28 January 2021, the Appointments Committee of the Magistrates Commission will be sitting in Pretoria to interview candidates for entry-level magistrates’ positions and also Head of Office (HOO) positions. The Committee will then break for two weeks and resume interviews again from 15 to 28 February 2021. These interviews are a continuation of the interview session that started in early November 2020 and ran until mid-December 2020, with a two-week break in-between.
The Magistrates Commission’s interview session has run until 2021 due to the sheer number of magistrates vacancies that must be filled – 186, as at February 2020, when the posts were advertised – at courts all over South Africa. The November/December 2020 session covered the provinces of Gauteng (South), KwaZulu-Natal (Inland), Limpopo, North West, Northern Cape and Western Cape. This session in January/February 2021 will cover the provinces of Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng (North), KwaZulu-Natal (Coastal), parts of Limpopo, and Mpumalanga. During this session, the Appointments Committee will interview a total of 94 candidates for 42 post: 14 of which are for Head of Office positions and 28 solely in respect of entry-level magistrates’ positions.
The Magistrates Commission is the statutory body responsible for advising the Minister of Justice on magisterial appointments. When there is a vacancy at a magistrates court, the Appointments Committee of the Magistrates Commission calls for applications and conducts structured interviews to assess the fitness and suitability of the candidates. Each candidate is asked a broadly standard set of questions in an interview that runs for about 30 minutes. The interview panel is made up the 8 members of the Appointments Committee, which includes members of Parliament, the head of the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI), two chief magistrates and the Cluster Head of the region for which the appointment will be made. The Committee is chaired by a Regional Court President.
Following the interviews, the Appointments Committee draws up a list of candidates to present to the full Magistrates Commission for its consideration. The Commission will then recommend these candidates to the Minister of Justice, who will then confirm the appointments. We have previously written about the process of getting appointed as a magistrate, comparing it with the process of being appointed as a judge.
Although it has proven challenging to ensure access to justice during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is impressive to note the Appointments Committee’s determination to continue with these interviews and within the boundaries of the health restrictions in place. This is commendable conduct by the Magistrates Commission.
Magistrates Matter attended the interview session which ran from 2 to 21 November 2020. A summary of the highlights from the interviews, including audio recordings and observations of the proceedings will be made available soon.
Magistrates Matter will also be attending the interviews scheduled to take place between 18 and 28 January 2021. Likewise, at the end of the session, you can look forward to a summary of the highlights from the interviews, including audio recordings and our observations from being in the room.
In the meantime, you can follow live updates on our Twitter page: @Mag_Matter. Use the hashtag #MagistratesMatter to join the conversation.