I've divorced myself from politics, says North West deputy judge president hopeful

08 October 2019 - 12:50
By Naledi Shange
Judge Ronald Hendricks is being interviewed for the third time for the position of deputy judge president of North West.
Image: Screengrab/ JSC Judge Ronald Hendricks is being interviewed for the third time for the position of deputy judge president of North West.

Judge Roland Hendricks, who is in the running for the position of deputy judge president of the North West, on Tuesday moved to assure the judicial services commission that his former political affiliation to the ANC would hold no bearing on his judicial performance.

Commissioner Dali Mpofu had highlighted that Hendricks had been a member of the ANC for 10 years prior to being placed on the bench, and questioned how this would affect his independence.

“Can you give an example which you did that showed that despite being a card-carrying member before your appointment, you were able to judge a matter without fear or favour in spite of your disposition?” Mpofu asked.

Hendricks did not give a practical example but instead answered: “Judges are human beings and, yes, we come with our biases from time to time, but a good judicial officer must be able to divorce themselves from these biases. I was a card-carrying member of the ANC but became apolitical when I was placed on the bench,” he stressed, adding that "impartiality cannot be compromised".

Hendricks is being interviewed for the position for the third time. He is the only candidate.

During his interview, Hendricks was on Tuesday asked why he thought he would be successful this time around.

“Not only is there a passage of two years that elapsed [since my last interview], I have had the opportunity to act as deputy and judge president, where I have demonstrated my capabilities of being in a leadership role," Hendricks replied.

On its website Judges Matter, the JSC posted a short profile on Hendricks, detailing how he had fared in previous interviews, when, among other things, he was questioned on allegations that he bullied a cleaner at court, a claim he denied.

The JSC also raised concerns over Hendricks' handling of traditional leadership cases, which it reported had raised concern among critics in the academic fraternity.

This stemmed from Hendricks' handling of several cases involving Kgosi Nyalala Pilane, of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela, whom he acquitted on fraud and corruption charges. These cases were linked to the administering of millions of rands that the Bakgatla community derive from platinum mining activity on their land, reported the JSC.

Having served as a judge since 2003, Hendricks has presided over one of SA's most prominent domestic violence cases, which was the murder of police constable Francis Rasuge. She was last seen alive with her lover, William Nkuna, before disappearing. Her remains were found eight years after she was reported missing. Nkuna is serving a life sentence.

Hendricks was questioned on whether he felt the justice system was decisively dealing with cases of gender-based violence. To this, he answered that the law was taking its course. 

Hendricks also presided over the “sunflower case", in which a teenager from Coligny, Matlhomola Mosweu, was killed, reportedly for stealing sunflowers. He sentenced  Mosweu’s murderers, Phillip Schutte and Pieter Doorewaard, to 23 and 18 years in jail respectively.

Posing questions to Hendricks, commissioner Bulelani Magwanishe asked him how he would contribute to helping the department of correctional services on its issues of overcrowding.

Hendricks stressed that the magistrates needed to be trained on different sentencing measures, stressing that “other forms of punishment can be meted out which will drastically reduce the overcrowding in prisons” adding that releasing those who qualify for parole could also be a solution.

The commissioners are deliberating on whether Hendricks has proven himself fit for the role.