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‘Transformation of the Judiciary in South Africa’

Date Released: Thu, 15 August 2013 11:59 +0200

Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza will  be delivering a lecture entitled ‘Transformation of the Judiciary in South Africa: Problems and Prospects’ as the Marikana Massacre Memorial Seminar hosted by the Faculty of Humanities and the African Humanities Programme at Rhodes University on Friday, 16 August 2013.

Adv Ntsebeza is a South African lawyer and a member of the Cape Bar. He is also spokesperson for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The JSC has been in the spotlight in recent months following the resignation of senior advocate Izak Smuts in April this year amid, disagreement on the transformation of the Bench.

Adv Smuts, who was appointed to represent the advocates’ profession in 2009, had been critical of the JSC for overlooking white men for judicial appointments. In a discussion paper titled ‘Transformation and the Judicial Service Commission’, Adv Smuts complained that white males were being unfairly overlooked for judicial appointment.

He reportedly said there existed, “a very real perception in certain quarters that the JSC is, in general, set against the appointment of white male candidates except in exceptional circumstances”.

Since Smuts’ resignation Adv Ntsebeza has been outspoken on the topic of transformation, following findings that of the 473 senior counsel from whose ranks candidate judges are selected, only nine were black women. Of the nine women, only four were African.

A paper prepared by the University of Cape Town's democratic governance and rights unit lashed out at the JSC for the slow pace of gender transformation in the judiciary, it was reported. The paper said only 28% of judicial officers nationally were women as of October 2012.

Subsequently, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) has launched legal action against the JSC in order to clarify the procedure and decision-making process relating to the nomination of persons for judicial office.

Adv Ntsebeza told the Sunday Times that government was failing black and female advocates by not giving them enough work to allow them to get experience and be considered for appointment as senior counsel.

“It’s a scandal that we should have only four black female silks in this day and age,” Adv Ntsebeza was quoted as saying. “There is no political will on the part of our government. You can't ask private industry to start briefing us, but you can insist [that] the state law adviser briefs black advocates,” he said.

According to Prof Fred Hendricks, Dean of Humanities at Rhodes University, Adv Ntsebeza was initially asked to speak at the Marikana Massacre Memorial Seminar because he is representing (pro bono) the families of some of the victims of the massacre. 

Adv Ntsebeza is also the Chairperson of the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust,a Trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and is an internationally recognised public speaker and author.

Date: Friday 16th August 2013, Time: 5.30pm, Venue: Faculty of Humanities Seminar Room, 1 Prince Alfred Street, Grahamstown.

By Sarah-Jane Bradfield