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A SENIOR Pretoria advocate was asked to apologise for his stint in the old Conservative Party and for defending apartheid-era perpetrators when the Judicial Services Commission interviewed nominees for the bench yesterday.
Hennie de Vos conceded during questioning that he served as chairperson of the Waterkloof branch of the far-right party from 1982 to 1987, a time when he said "the supposition still was that South Africa must be divided in areas where black, white and coloured were totally independent of each other".
He said he left the National Party for the breakaway CP in what was a "dispute between Afrikaners trying to talk politics among each other" about the merits of the National Party's tri-cameral parliament.
De Vos said he had not been involved in politics for the past 22 years.
He said he had for several years taken in black law graduates as trainees because "it was the best way" of transforming the judiciary.
Many of the graduates "had taken silk".
But Dumisa Ntsebeza, one of President Jacob Zuma's new appointees to the JSC, said he had failed to explain his conversion from right-winger to a promoter of racial parity on the bench.
"You are not on trial but in a sense the people here would like to know that the people they are putting on the bench have the values of the Constitution at heart.
"I would be a happier person if you are ready to say: 'I'm a person who was part of a bad past.' I do not get that sense from you." - Sapa