The Bloemfontein High Court set aside the short-list proceedings of the Free State Magistrate’s Commission for vacant posts.

According to the Helen Suzman Foundation, which acted as a friend of the court in the case, the court found that the commission completely disregarded legislation, regulations, its own short-list process and the rights of white people to be considered at least during the process.

The foundation said a ruling was made last Tuesday.

The application was submitted by Richard Lawrence, the Acting Magistrate and Head of Office at Petrusburg. He applied for a permanent appointment, but the magistrate’s commission overlooked him for the position.

“It was clear from the records of the private deliberations of the magistrate’s commission that race was the decisive factor in the shortlisting process. The record, in particular, revealed astonishing statements such as “everything you need, as long as it is not white”, by the chair of the magistrate’s commission, “the foundation said.

No more white

The commission sought to justify its decision – not to consider white candidates – by relying on certain provisions of the Constitution that require that judicial appointments also reflect the broad racial and gender composition of South Africa.

The Helen Suzman Foundation argued art. 174 (2) of the Constitution must be considered, but also taken into account with all other relevant factors when making a decision. The foundation argued that this could not be the determining factor because that interpretation undermines the law. The foundation pointed out other factors that could be taken into account.

Acting Deputy Judge President Johann Daffue, in line with Judge Pitso Molitsoane, found that the Magistrate’s Commission did not have a quorum when it came together to compile the shortlist, rendering the proceedings unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.

“As regards the Magistrate’s Commission’s interpretation and application of Art. 174 (2), the court found that the commission completely disregarded legislation, regulations, its own shortlisting process and the rights of whites to be considered for the shortlist at least. The court has consequently set aside the appointment of magistrates by the Justice Minister in this regard, ”the foundation said.