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20 November 2020 Magistrates Commission Interviews Synopsis

On 20 November 2020, 13 candidates were interviewed by the Committee. The interviews were chaired by Ms Mbalo and the commissioners present on the day were commissioners Sidlova, Mokoena, Tengeni and Dyantyi. The cluster heads present on the day were Mr Thulare, Ms Ikaneng, Ms Raphahlelo and Mr Loots. The interviews were for Bellville, Clanwilliam (HOO) and Malmesbury. Some candidates were also interviewed for other courts which they had been shortlisted for, being Alice (HOO), Wynberg, Ceres (HOO) and Klerksdorp.

The interviews once again centred around the training of magistrates and magistrates’ conduct during court proceedings. At the beginning of the interviews a very important issue was raised with one of the candidates. This related to the scourge of gender-based violence and sexual violence against woman and children. Magistrates rotate in different courts, i.e. civil court, criminal court and sexual offences court. A magistrate who is in the sexual offences court will most likely have an encounter with the Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC). The candidate with whom this important issue was raised was the project manager at the sexual offences unit in Cape Town and inevitably had been dealing with TCC’s. The candidate noted that women are not reporting gender-based violence and sexual violence because of the way they are treated when reporting these unlawful acts.

Not many people are enlightened about TCC’s, their role and their importance in the justice system. TCC’s are facilities within the justice system that have been introduced to curb sexual violence and gender-based violence. The main objective of TCC’s is to reduce secondary victimization of sexual violence survivors. It is also the objective of TCC’s to ensure that a sexual violence case is built properly from the beginning so that it may be prosecuted fairly before the court of law. TCC’s provide important services to sexual violence survivors, such as emotional support and trauma containment; medical assistance; and legal assistance.

TCC’s play a crucial role within the justice system because they aim to ensure that when a sexual violence case is prosecuted before a magistrate in a sexual offences court, there is enough evidence and information to lead to the conviction of the perpetrator. It is however important that magistrates in general, acquaint themselves with all the different facets that exist in our justice system that aim to ensure that justice is dispensed with, such as TCC’s.

Commissioners also weighed in on the issue of sexual violence and gender-based violence. One of the commissioners also raised an important concern with one of the candidates, which is that survivors of sexual violence and gender-based violence tend to withdraw their cases after some time. The commissioner wanted to know what the reason for this could be. Although one cannot be certain of the real reason behind the withdrawal of sexual violence and gender-based violence cases, the fact that these cases take too long to be finalised was given as one of the reasons for their withdrawal. Clearly, more still needs to be done within our justice system to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done timeously.