'I AM AGAINST NUMBERS PLAY'

Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Azhar Cachalia told the Judicial Service Commission yesterday that he was against "the numbers game" in deciding whether to appoint black or white judges.

Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Azhar Cachalia told the Judicial Service Commission yesterday that he was against "the numbers game" in deciding whether to appoint black or white judges.

"If me or my family or anybody appears before a judge, I don't want a judge that looks like me, I want a judge who is fair," he said during his interview for one of four positions on the Constitutional Court in Kliptown, Soweto.

He was responding to a question by ID leader Patricia de Lille on whether Indian and coloured people are included in the definition of "blacks".

Cachalia said that though broad-based economic empowerment legislation defined black as black, coloured and Indian, this was something people got "caught up in".

The focus should rather be on appointing a competent, nonracist and non-sexist judiciary.

He said during the rule of apartheid-era National Party, the policies of which were based on separating blacks and whites, they selected from a pool of white judges, and there was a strong feeling that they set quotas for Jews.

"There could not be more than one or two Jews in the appeals court.

"They excluded everybody else. Within the white group they played the numbers game, and I feel very strongly that we can't play the numbers game."

He said "it does not work that way" to properly represent every race group.

He said it would be "a problem" if Indians were appointed to the national rugby team because "they were built smaller," setting off chuckles around the room.

Cachalia said that the idea that he would be appointed by the JSC because he is Indian "detracted from the process of finding competent people".

JSC commissioner Koos van der Merwe of the IFP said he had been with the National Party and had not heard of what Cachalia said was how the NP interpreted "what was happening on the bench".

Cachalia said judges with no discernible legal ability were "deployed" and "these people were visited on us".

They didn't know the law and were "political hacks", he said.

Earlier he denied that he had considered withdrawing his application, saying he had only asked former Constitutional Court Judge Johann Kriegler if he (Cachalia) should stay at the SCA longer.

All the candidates had been asked about reports that they had to be convinced not to withdraw their applications. - Sapa

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