Out of four women candidates, the Judicial Service Commission has appointed one for the single position on the Western Cape Bench.
Four competent and highly qualified lawyers have been interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for a single position on the high court in the Western Cape Bench on Tuesday, of which all four were women.
Nolwazi Boqwana and Kate Savage especially stood above the other two, Diane Davis and Roseline Nyman, because of their more impressive judicial temperaments and progressive mindedness in tune with the values of the Constitution.
Boqwana was eventually chosen.
At times during all four interviews – especially when asked by commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza whether they would avail themselves for a vacant position on the Labour Court Bench – it seemed as if the JSC were wishing all four could be appointed.
The JSC has come under increasing criticism because of the lethargic pace of transformation of the judiciary in terms of racial and gender dynamics within the legal fraternity. But, as Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng – and the candidates themselves – pointed out, the problem is a much broader one.
Briefing patterns that favour white males, patriarchal perceptions that women can only handle certain fields of law, such as family law, and the reticence of businesses that litigate often, like banks, appear to brief males, where some of the reasons advanced by the candidates as to why the "pool" of suitable female and black candidates making themselves available for selection to the Bench seems dry.
Tabeth Masengu, a researcher at the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit attached to the University of Cape Town, said the interviews were a breath of fresh air. "It was the first time I witnessed interviews for a provincial division that had only female candidates. In addition, the candidates were all intellectually apt, highly competent, experienced and very good orators," said Masengu.
"All these women proved doubters wrong. Those who would argue that there are no capable women would have been put to shame. Those who feel that judging should be left to advocates only because they have the skill would have begrudgingly admitted that the attorneys on display proved in their interview, judgments and comments from the General Council of the Bar that they too can stand up and be counted."
Masengu noted that the line of questioning by the JSC, led by Mogoeng, had also become more relevant and sensitive to gender transformation: "There is an increase in questions regarding gender transformation and the plight of women from the chief justice particular made it clear that the JSC is interested in advancing the cause of women and hence all candidates were asked about specific challenges they have faced. This is encouraging and is a welcome step in acknowledging the challenges faced by all women including judges."