Different perspective on racial divisions at SCA

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Being the only white male candidate being interviewed for a Constitutional Court position‚ Judge Malcolm Wallis gave a different opinion to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on allegations of racial divisions and collegiality within the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

Responding to questions from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng‚ Wallis admitted that things could be made easier for judges who were coming in but there were several senior colleagues who were always willing to assist.

“No one has ever said to me they felt unwelcome. Several have said to me that this is unfamiliar territory and obviously if you are in unfamiliar territory‚ there is a level of apprehension‚” he said.

Several judges‚ including the Acting President of the Supreme Court of Appeal‚ Mandisa Maya have over the last two days revealed to the JSC the explicit racial and at times sexist divisions which exist in the SCA.

Judge Leona Theron was reduced to tears when she spoke of how she was made to feel inadequate in the work space‚ adding that she had been a victim of sexism and racism.

Without mentioning any names‚ Judge Boissie Mbha said “some people think that others don’t deserve to be there… Comments are being made about the work of others. There is bad-mouthing of other colleagues”.

Maya revealed that even in the tearoom of the court‚ judges of different races occupied different corners.

Wallis said he was not surprised by these claims.

“I noticed it the first day‚” he said‚ adding that he was not associated with any clique.

Wallis‚ however‚ said he always tried to be kind.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng quizzed him on whether he had ever bad-mouthed any of the Constitutional Court judges which he would be required to work with should he be appointed.

Wallis has been at the Constitutional Court in an acting capacity in the past.

“I should hope not‚” said Wallis‚ adding that he would be willing to affer an apology if he had done so.

Asked whether he had ever accused any of his colleagues at the SCA of being lazy‚ Wallis said‚ “I may have said things about people not pulling their weight”.

Wallis is a highly qualified candidate.

Among his list of a notable judgments was the Tloke judgement wherein he ordered that the Electoral Court hold by-elections for the North West municipality.

Wallis also wrote the SCA judgement declaring the South African government acted unlawfully when it failed to arrest Sudanese President‚ Omar al-Bashir when he visited the country in 2015. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has interviewed five candidates nominated for the Constitutional Court judge position.

The commission is expected to recommend four people to the post and President Jacob Zuna is expected to make a decision on who will fill the single vacant post.

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