Langa unhappy with rate of transformation

Deputy Chief Justice Pius Langa expressed his impatience with the speed of transformation of the judiciary during his interview for the post of chief justice in Cape Town on Monday.

Quizzed by fellow judges on the Judicial Service Commission and the minister and deputy minister of justice, Langa dismissed reports that he was a transformation “gradualist”.

“My idea of transformation is more revolutionary,” he said, adding that the Constitution demanded it.

Langa has been nominated by President Thabo Mbeki to succeed the current chief justice, Arthur Chaskalson. He is the only candidate.

He said the judiciary had to become more hospitable to black candidate attorneys and legal practitioners.

“I am impatient with the rate of change. There is a trickle of black counsel coming to the Constitutional Court [majority still white] but I don’t wield the power yet,” said Langa.

Langa, who chaired the Langa Commission into the 1998 Lesotho elections on behalf of the Southern African Development and Community (SADC), is also highly regarded by the Commonwealth for whom he helped return the Fiji Islands to democracy as the Commonwealth’s special envoy.

“They seem to consider my work with the Constitutional Court as spare time,” he told the commission on Monday.

Along with the issue of transformation, Langa expressed strong views on racism and the independence of the judiciary.

He said that while he could not expect the judiciary—for they were still part of the broader South African community—to have escaped the prejudices created by apartheid, he would adopt a “zero tolerance” attitude towards racism.

“I would have been surprised if the judiciary had escaped the scourge of racism but there are many of all races who have distanced themselves from it,” he said, noting that those who did not should be exposed and confronted without hesitation.

“I hate it [racism],” Langa said.
He said all allegations of racism should be public to prove that there was a mechanism available to victims and to enforce his “zero tolerance” attitude.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe—attending the proceedings—recently went public when he submitted a report on acts of alleged racism within the Western Cape bar to the minister.

Concerning the independence of the judiciary, Langa said he would ensure that this was not infringed upon and said it was important that the judiciary “did not feel beholden to anybody”.

“The strength of a democracy is measured by the confidence the public has in the judiciary and the court,” said Langa.

Debate was recently sparked by proposed legislation that judges undergo training at Justice College in Pretoria. The college is a government institution, which raised questions that the independence of the judiciary would be compromised.

But responding to a question by Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla on the issue, Langa said he did not feel the judiciary was under threat.

In the past, the further training of judges was done through universities and sponsored by foreign donor funds.

The commission’s recommendations will now be forwarded to the president for his consideration before an appointment is finalised.

The Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday it supported Langa’s appointment and was pleased to see he would adopt positive steps to combat racism. These would include judicial education that would make people aware of their prejudices.

“Judge Langa stated that on his watch there would be zero tolerance of racism, as far as transformation was concerned the constitution would be his guide,” said DA MP, Sheila Camerer after attending the interview.

Senior judges release a statement on racism

Racial and sexist stereotypes have no place in South Africa’s judiciary or its legal profession, the country’s senior judges said on Monday.

In a statement issued after a meeting at the weekend to discuss racism and sexism within the judiciary, the heads of South Africa’s superior courts said it was important to promote open discussion of these issues.

The meeting considered reports on the matter from both superior courts and institutions within the legal profession.

“Racial and sexist stereotypes have no place in the judiciary or the legal profession,” the statement read.

“Because of our history, it is of particular importance that there should be a conscious effort to breakdown racial and gender stereotypes, and to promote a culture of open discussion around such issues.

“This will be an ongoing process that will be addressed in each court and in judicial education and training programmes.”

The judges said there was “a need to be sensitive to cultural differences and the perceptions that could be the result of insensitive conduct or comment”.

“The way judicial officers address legal representatives and witnesses who appear before them, and the way they speak to each other, may reflect racist or sexist attitudes or be perceived to do so.

“All judicial officers should be sensitive to this and make a conscious effort to treat each other, and those with whom they have dealings in court, with courtesy, and to avoid causing the hurt that results from not doing so.”

The judges said a representative committee, chaired by the “head of court” would be established at each superior court to address issues of racism or sexism that might arise.

“There will also be exchanges between the judiciary and the legal professions on issues relevant to racism and sexism that may arise from time to time.

“Reports from these committees will be considered at the meetings of the heads of courts, and where necessary, appropriate action will be taken to deal with matters arising from such reports.”

The judges also supported “an initiative taken within the Cape High Court, which aims at resolving the difficulties which are particular to this division of the high court”.

“After a report is received of the initiative taken within the Cape High Court, and the reports from the various superior courts and institutions within the legal profession have been analysed and studied, a decision will be made by the heads of courts as to the further action that may be necessary and a further statement will be issued.

“We are aware of the public interest in this matter and contemplate that the further statement will be issued within the next two weeks,” the statement read.—Sapa

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