Commission grills judges in interviews

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

Northern Cape Judge President Frans Kgomo has apologised for his conduct in a murder case that was later declared a mistrial by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

This happened on Tuesday during an interview by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in Cape Town for a post on the benches of either the Constitutional Court or the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

"I'm sorry. I thought I'm serving justice and here I did not . mea culpa," Kgomo told the panel.

Last month, the SCA ruled Kgomo had not been open-minded, impartial or fair during the racially-charged murder trial of Joseph le Grange.

It expressed surprise that Kgomo had intervened so much, "virtually taking over the prosecution from counsel for the state".

It said his language had been "suggestive of one who has certain preconceived biases and who allows those biases to affect his judgment".

The judges set aside the convictions and sentence, and ordered a fresh trial.

Kgomo, currently a SCA acting judge, told the JSC he should not be judged by that case alone.

Also before the JSC this week was SCA Judge Louis Harms, who was interviewed for the post of SCA deputy president.

Harms was questioned on his past membership of the Broederbond and about his chairmanship of a 1990 commission that found no evidence to support claims of death squads.

In its submission to the JSC, the Black Lawyers Association said it was uncomfortable with both issues, and questioned Harms' objectivity.

Harms said if his objectivity was questionable, he should have resigned long ago. He said people lied to his commission, police falsified evidence and death squads commander Eugene de Kock had assassinated a witness.