Poor judgment writ large as candidates vie for the bench
While many "exemplary candidates" applied this week to become high court judges, some of those before the Judicial Service Commission in Cape Town seemed to be less than ideal for the job. PERCIVAL MASETIThe past came back to haunt Maseti when he was hauled over the coals on Monday for not disclosing a previous conviction for accepting a bribe while a prosecutor.story_article_left1Maseti, who applied for a seat at the High Court in Johannesburg, was paid R50 by a man charged with assault, more than 35 years ago. Maseti was sentenced to six months in prison.He claimed this was partially due to the political climate at the time. He said he had been kicked out of university and had to become a prosecutor.He told the JSC: "It is my contention that the purpose of the court sentencing me was not to punish me but to allow me to cool down, relax and consider my future and undergo corrective training in terms of character and to make sure that in the future I operate above board and, in a nutshell, this was a wake-up call."He said since that incident he was "a new-born, a new man".MANDLA MBONGWEMbongwe, also up for the Gauteng division, was nailed on Monday for his conduct as a trial judge by both the bar council and the commission.In a very "unusual move" the Supreme Court of Appeal slated the "unacceptable manner" in which Mbongwe had conducted a domestic violence case in which a woman sued the minister of police.The appeal court's deputy president, Judge Mandisa Maya, said the court was "horrified" by Mbongwe's "unwarranted interruptions" in the case, which bordered on discourtesy and "cynicism" towards witnesses and counsel.PETER FISCHERThe nephew of the late Bram Fischer did not live up to his uncle's reputation. On Wednesday he interviewed for a position in the Free State division of the high court.Asked "Why does gender equity matter?", the advocate responded in a way that left spectators cringing."Hell hath no fury like a [woman scorned] ... but sometimes women are more level-headed and inclined to be much less agitated," he said.He also said that while men were egotistical, "women bring balancing and a placating atmosphere to that reality".He added that "women bring a soft, motherly approach".SHANAAZ MIAOn Wednesday, magistrate Mia, who applied for the Free State division of the high court, was quizzed on whether she helped a colleague to write her judgments.Mia denied doing so, saying she merely made comments and suggestions.The commission revealed that the colleague she is said to have assisted, magistrate Judith van Schalkwyk, is facing an inquiry by the Magistrate's Commission. Van Schalkwyk is charged with misconduct, including gambling during office hours, instructing subordinates to do her hair, and getting others to write her judgments for her.