Son of anti-apartheid lawyer Denis Kuny tells JSC panel he pursued law to follow in father's footsteps

06 October 2021 - 06:00
By Naledi Shange
Steven Kuny SC told the JSC interviewing panel that he had pursued law specifically to follow in his father's footsteps.
Image: Screengrab Steven Kuny SC told the JSC interviewing panel that he had pursued law specifically to follow in his father's footsteps.

The son of anti-apartheid defence lawyer Denis Kuny has been interviewed for a position as a judge in the Gauteng division of the high court.

Denis Kuny defended anti-apartheid stalwarts alongside other lawyers such as George Bizos, Arthur Chaskalson and Ismail Mohammed. At 89, Denis is one of a few white legal minds who stood in solidarity with the likes of the late former president Nelson Mandela, Tokyo Sexwale and Steve Biko. 

Before it came to light to that Steven Kuny SC was Denis's son, his interview before the Judicial Service Commission was going rather well on Tuesday but as the question of his lineage was brought to the fore by commissioner Dali Mpofu SC, Steven was cast in a different light as he gave details of his values, ethics and from where they stemmed.

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Commissioner Griffith Madonsela had earlier quizzed Steven about what was written on his CV about him being an executive member of Advocates for Transformation — an unusual feat, Madonsela said, for a white lawyer.

“I consider myself an African,” he replied.

It was then that Mpofu revealed that his father had represented many political prisoners, some of them killed by the apartheid regime.

Steven explained that he grew up in a family where he was made acutely aware of the injustices of apartheid. He said it was for this very reason that he became a lawyer.

“I am very aware of the painful past we come from and how it lives with us today. It’s not something we can forget about. It has informed my life in every way,” he said. “One of the reasons I became a public defender was because I was aware of the fact that people did not have access to lawyers,” he added.

He studied law with the hopes that he would follow in his father’s footsteps but apartheid collapsed. “That kind of work, thankfully, fell away,” he said.

But, he said, he had always been a defender of black people's rights. He told the commission that several years ago, he represented 400 mineworkers before the labour court after they were dismissed “because they were not Zulu”.

I feel completely ready to assume that office [of a permanent judge]
 Steven Kuny SC

He won that case.

Mpofu highlighted that besides the Johannesburg bar, Steven was known in some Johannesburg bars — eliciting a chuckle from some of the commissioners.

“I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about me frequenting bars after hours,” he said. “I happen to be a jazz piano player. It’s one of my passions and love,” he said, adding that he had played at a popular beer hall for more than 20 years. “So, that was something I did and enjoy doing and still do to this day,” he replied.

He is one of 17 candidates being interviewed for 10 posts available in the Gauteng division.

He brings a wealth of experience to the table, having already appeared in various courts across the judicial field and is now an acting judge.

“I feel completely ready to assume that office [of a permanent judge],” he said.

The interviews continue.