CHANGE TO THE BENCH ON AGENDA

TRANSFORMATION of the judiciary was high on the agenda on the first day of a marathon sitting of the Judicial Service Commission in Cape Town.

TRANSFORMATION of the judiciary was high on the agenda on the first day of a marathon sitting of the Judicial Service Commission in Cape Town.

Yesterday morning, as interviews for 30 vacancies got under way, Port Elizabeth senior counsel Glenn Goosen was repeatedly asked why he, as a white male, should get a high court appointment in Eastern Cape.

Goosen, a former student activist and prominent figure in the United Democratic Front, said he supported the "crucial necessity" for transformation of the judiciary.

He was acutely aware of the need to address demographic and gender imbalances on the bench.

But, it was also critical that commitment to and endorsement of constitutional values inform and motivate the process of achieving a fully transformed bench.

The "broader requirement" in transforming the judiciary was to seek to achieve the commitment of all judicial officers to the underlying values of the Constitution.

He hoped the commission would hold the view that he could make a contribution in that direction.

Commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza said that of the 15 judges on the benches of the Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown courts, 10 were white, of whom nine were male.

Ntsebeza, a former colleague of Goosen's on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said section 174 of the Constitution specifically enjoined the JSC to consider the need for the judiciary to broadly reflect the racial and gender composition of South Africa.

Though the racial makeup of the Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth courts was not Goosen's fault, and no-one doubted his competence, the disproportion of white and black was "quite disturbing", he said.

Responding to a question from advocate Izak Smuts, Goosen said three of the nine white male judges on Ntsebeza's list had in fact retired, and two more had been appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court.

It was those vacancies the JSC was now trying to fill, Goosen said. - Sapa

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