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12 November 2020 Magistrates Commission Interviews Synopsis

On 12 November 2020, the chairperson of the Committee, commissioner Mbalo, was present. Also, present were commissioners Sidlova (as acting cluster head for Gauteng), Makamu, Tengeni, Mokoena and Dyantyi. The interviews were for Daveyton (HOO) and Thembisa. Some candidates were also interviewed for other courts which they had been shortlisted for, being Klerksdorp, Scottburgh, Kgomotso (HOO), Theunissen (HOO), Daveyton, Germiston, Pretoria North, Westonaria, Enseleni (HOO), Boksburg, Roodepoort, Mashishing (HOO) and Lulekani (HOO). A total of 11 candidates was interviewed on this day.

Most of the candidates were being interviewed for HOO positions. An interview for HOO position is not the same as an interview of an entry level magistrate. In general, a “head of office” means, in the case of a district magistrate, the head of the relevant magistrate’s office, in the case of a regional magistrate, the regional court president of that region and, in the case of a family magistrate and a senior civil magistrate, the chief magistrate under whom he falls.

As a result of the nature of the position of a head of office, the questions posed to HOO candidates are vastly different from those posed to entry-level magistrates. One of the mostly asked question on this day by the acting cluster head, commissioner Sidlova, related to the way a candidate would deal with conflict among magistrates and how a head of office would deal with a magistrate who is not performing in their court. This question clearly illustrates that a head of office in a magistrate’s court holds a managerial position and carries more responsibilities than other magistrates. A head of office must oversee the smooth running of the court and must be able to deal with any conflict that arises between court staff.

To ensure the smooth running of a magistrate’s court, a head of office must adequately undertake case-flow management. In doing so a head of office needs to convene case-flow management meetings, at least once a month and see to it that all stakeholders are invited to the case-flow management meetings. The stakeholders attending the case-flow management meetings should include the National Prosecuting Authority, Legal Aid South Africa, South African Police Services, and court managers, among others. In addition to these duties, a head of office must also know which registers to keep. There are approximately 11 registers that a head of office must keep. These include, among others, the MC15 register, the J1 register and the leave register.

It was surprising to find that some candidates were not aware that the position they had been shortlisted for was a HOO position, which obviously meant that the candidate would struggle with answering the questions posed to them. It cannot be emphasised enough that it is important that candidates know which position they are shortlisted and being interviewed for.