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11 November 2020 Magistrates Commission Interviews Synopsis

On 11 November 2020, the commission continued with the interviews for Randburg Magistrates Court. Present on this day were commissioners Makamu, Dyantyi, Mokoena and Sidlova. Commissioner Makamu was also the acting chairperson for the day and Commissioner Sidlova was also present as the acting cluster heard for Gauteng. Ms Ikaneng was present as the acting cluster heard for North-West.

Although the interviews on this day were specifically for Randburg Magistrates Court, some candidates were also interviewed for other courts which they had been shortlisted for, being Westonaria, Tlhabane, Rustenburg, Middelburg (HOO), Standerton, Moretele, Durban, Adelaide (HOO), Robertson (HOO), Bloemfontein, Kimberly and Lady Frere. A total of 16 candidates were interviewed by the Committee on this day.

The interviews are of a very serious nature and candidates do appear to be very nervous when being interviewed by the Committee. However, the Committee does try to put candidates at ease to ensure that they are given a fair opportunity to answer questions adequately. The Committee asks various questions based on the law, the office for which the candidate is being interviewed, social context-related questions and questions based on the candidate’s general work ethic and performance.

Questions based on the law also relate to questions based on the constitution, specifically section 174 of the Constitution. On this day, one of the commissioners posed an important question relating to the transformation agenda within the judiciary and specifically within the magistracy. In posing the question, a scenario was demonstrated by the commissioner which was that the Committee finds that there are three top candidates at the same level of performance, one is a coloured woman, another is a white male, and the other is an African woman. Beyond the gender and race what else would one consider to break the tie because all three candidates are suitable for the position they are being interviewed for? This was a very important question relating to transformation and section 174 of the Constitution. Section 174(2) of the constitution provides that “the need for the judiciary to reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa must be considered when judicial officers are appointed.”

When considering the question posed by the commissioner, it is important to bear in mind that transformation transcends beyond just race and gender. When seeking to appoint judicial officers, various other factors must be considered, such as the needs of the office that the candidate is being interviewed for and the social context of that office. Social context generally refers to the specific setting in which social interaction takes place. Social context includes specific, often unique meanings and interpretations assigned by people within a given group.  It is important for candidates to understand the general meaning of social context and the specific social context of the area in which they are applying to be appointed to as magistrates. Later during the interviews, on 18 November 2020, another candidate was asked about her understanding of social context. In response she said “social context is in relation to the media…not being involved in media, like Facebook and Whatsapp”. This was not correct, to say the least.