Enter your keyword

13 November 2020 Magistrates Commission Interviews Synopsis

On 13 November 2020, the Committee comprised of the chairperson, commissioner Mbalo and commissioners Tengeni, Sidlova, Makamu, Dyantyi and Mokoena. In addition to the commissioners, the cluster heads present were Ms Ringane, Ms Raphahlelo, Mr Ngubane and Ms Ikaneng. The interviews were for Germiston (HOO), Vereeniging, Krugersdorp, Fochville and Westonaria. Some candidates were also interviewed for other courts which they had been shortlisted for, being Lulekani, Pretoria, Lebowakgomo, East London, Scottburgh, Klerksdorp, Boksburg, Nkowankowa and Lehurutshe (HOO). The Committee interviewed 11 candidates on this day.

Throughout the interviews some candidates had the privilege of being interviewed while acting as magistrates or while having acted as such. Whereas some candidate had never acted before, which was a disadvantage for them. The process of getting appointed as an acting magistrate is not tedious at all. However, many people are not aware of this process. For one to be put forward as an acting magistrate, they must submit their CV and further credentials to the regional court president. The regional court president will in turn consider the CV and determine whether the person who seeks to be appointed as an acting magistrate has a minimum of seven years in the legal field. Once the regional court president has determined that the individual is appointable as an acting magistrate, their CV will be forwarded to the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. The Deputy Minister of Justice will consider the CV and decide whether to appoint the individual as an acting magistrate. The Deputy Minister of Justice has the final say in the appointment of acting magistrates, as well as magistrates.

Having acted as a magistrate has its benefits because the Committee focuses on a wide range of the law during the interviews. This requires that a candidate must be well-rounded in the difference areas of the law, and it is advantageous that a candidate has some form of practical experience in the law. The Committee asks questions based on civil law, criminal law, maintenance law, child justice law, the children’s act and property law. This is in addition to other general questions. So, if one has acted, the chances are they have rotated to the different courts, i.e., maintenance court, criminal court, harassment court and domestic violence courts, civil court. As a result, these candidates are in a better position to answer all questions posed to them.

One of the questions posed by the cluster heads was that candidates differentiate between common law offense and statutory offences. To understand this question and arrive at the correct answer, it is necessary that one understands the difference between common law and statutory law. Generally, common law is law that arises out of the judgments made by courts of law and statutory law is law that arises from legislations made by government bodies or parliament. Therefore, a common law offense is an offense that infringes upon the law made by courts of law through judgments. A statutory offense is an offense that infringes upon legislation made by government bodies or parliament. Some candidates struggled to answer this general question, and even more so in regard to practical questions.

The Committee posed a very important question to a candidate, who was an attorney but at the time of his interview was an acting magistrate. The question was whether he had been provided with any form of training or induction when he commenced in his position as an acting magistrate. The candidate advised the Committee that no training is provided to acting magistrates. Acting magistrates must “learn on the job”. The candidate further advised the Committee that he sought assistance from colleagues when he was faced with a challenge as an acting magistrate.

It is correct that acting magistrates and newly appointed permanent magistrates are not provided with any form of training or induction. However, acting magistrates are sometimes allocated mentors upon appointment to act. Also, the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI) does provide some form of training to magistrates. SAJEI was established to promote the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts through continuing judicial education as provided for in the South African Judicial Education Institute Act 14 of 2008. SAJEI started providing judicial training in 2011 and continues to do so.

It is highly advisable that acting magistrates be provided with formal training upon appointment as acting magistrates. Although they are not permanent magistrates, but they do perform the same work as permanent magistrates and most importantly the decisions made by acting magistrates have the same impact as permanent magistrates – they affect people’s lives. Training upon appointment as an acting is an absolute necessity.