Constitutional Hill

JSC: Why Gauntlett was not appointed

Letter from RB Cloete of Matsepe’s Incorporated to Sello Chiloane, Judicial Services Commission, November 5 2012


The Secretariat of the Commission
Judicial Service Commission

Dear Sir


We refer to our letters of 23  and 25 October 2012.

In your response of 25 October you indicated that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for the reasons to be disclosed then, in view of the fact that the chairperson would address a media event the next day. No other basis was indicated as to why the reasons would not then be forthcoming.

The reasons were not furnished publicly at the media event. Instead it was indicated that the consent of Mr Gauntlett to the disclosure of reasons relating to him would be sought. We do not accept that the consent of Mr Gauntlett (or Mr Dolamo, to whom we assume a similar request was directed, given the terms of our request of 23 October) had to be obtained before the JSC could provide reasons. We do in any event understand that Mr Gauntlett assented, on the same day he received the request (29 October).

The delay in furnishing the reasons is a matter of concern. Is it to be inferred that in reaching its decisions on 17 October, the JSC as a body did not record the reasons by which the decisions were arrived at?  It would appear that the delay is to be ascribed to the fact that reasons are now being prepared ex post facto, when the JSC is not in session.

In the circumstances, we must ask to receive the reasons for the decisions of 17 October (in the respects indicated in our letter of 23 October) by Wednesday 7 November 2012.

Yours faithfully



Reply by the Judicial Service Commission to RB Cloete, November 6 2012:


Enq: Sello Chiloane

To: Mr R B Cloete
Matsepes Inc

Dear Mr Cloete


We acknowledge receipt of your letter sent via email dated 23 October 2012.

I was requested by the Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (Commission) to respond as follows:

Eight (8) candidates were interviewed for five (5) vacancies on the Western Cape High Court. The candidates were: Ms J I Cloete, Mr M J Dolamo, Advocate J J Gauntlett SC, Mr S J Koen, Mrs B P Mantame, Advocate 0 L Rogers, Ms N Saba and Advocate A Schippers SC.

The following candidates were recommended for appointment:

Ms Cloete,
Mr Dolamo,
Ms Mantame
Advocate Rogers, and
Advocate Schippers.

The recommendations were determined through the normal voting procedure (secret ballot) of the Commission, the successful candidates having received a majority vote (50% plus one or more of votes cast). Advocate Gauntlett SC failed to muster the required number of votes so as to be recommended for appointment.

Voting takes place after the Commissioners have deliberated on the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, the needs of a particular court and the requirements imposed by section 174(1) and 174(2) of the Constitution. The question that is answered at the voting stage is: Which of the candidates found to be fit and proper1 should the Commission recommend for appointment? [All the candidates interviewed were found to be fit and proper.]

Commissioners, therefore, vote for candidates that they want to be recommended for appointment. Each Commissioner thus exercises an independent vote. This is what happened in relation to these interviews for the Western Cape High Court.

As to Advocate Gauntlett SC, his excellence and experience as a lawyer were acknowledged. A concern was raised, however, that he has a ‘short thread’ and that he can be acerbic at times. Some Commissioners accepted his assurance that as a Judge one is removed from the immediate combative situation that counsel usually find themselves in, but strong reservations were also expressed as to whether, as part of his attributes, he has the humility and the appropriate temperament that a Judicial Officer should display.

Another very important consideration was the demographic composition of the Western Cape High Court Bench. It was argued that considering the number of white male Judges in that Court as compared to other races was such that were two white males to be appointed (at that stage the focus was on Advocates Gauntlett SC and Rogers SC) the Commission would be doing violence to the provisions of section 174(2) of the Constitution. Of course to some Commissioners those provisions were no obstacle to the appointment of two white males.

These were the considerations that occupied the minds of Commissioners when they were called upon to vote, It can therefore be concluded that the reasons for Advocate Gauntlett SC not mustering the required number of votes were:

1. concerns or doubt as to whether he is possessed of humility and judicial temperament; and

2. the appointment of two white males would do violence to the provisions of section 174 (2) of the Constitution.

It is correct that Mr Dolamo’s disciplinary complaints were raised during the Commission’s deliberations. However, most of the complaints were considered to be relatively ‘old’ and most were decided in his favour. Furthermore, the Commission took account of a letter from the Law Society of the Northern Provinces attesting to the fact that Mr Dolamo was a member in good standing with them. He could therefore not be disqualified in the face of such a letter.

The long delay in delivering a reserved judgment on an application for leave to appeal was viewed against the background that then he was acting and still learning. He was however described by some Commissioners as popular with fellow Judges and generally a good Judge.

Yours sincerely,

Sello Chiloane

Judicial Service Commission

  • LoyisoQola

    Sounds like valid reasons to me though humility and racial factors do not dispute or disprove the fact that Gauntlet SC is more competent than all the other people that were recommended.

  • Maggs Naidu – ( – Zuma MUST go!

    November 8, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Agreed Funny Man Wannabe!

    Although it’s unlikely that a “slate” is not, er, circulated prior to voting.

  • Zoo Keeper

    Reason 1 is hogwash. If that were the case there’d be no judges. I’ve yet to meet a humble judge!!

    2. The provision requires “consideration”, not dogmatic adherence to prescribed quotas. The best candidates have to be appointed first and consideration to demographics given as second. Here it is first. The JSC has elevated the interpretation of the clause beyond what it should be.

    So really the JSC is left with reliance on the second reason.

  • LoyisoQola

    @Maggs Naidu

    Yes true that – And I must say if by “funny man wannabe”you mean to make reference to the fact that my name is similar to that of Loyiso Gola – then I should tell you that his existence irks no one more than i does me.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    With respect, the pro-Gauntlett hysteria appears to reflect a degree of RACISM. I bet you the liberal media would not be whinging madly if Gauntlett were a black positivist from Bechuanaland!

  • LoyisoQola


    The racist is you. There tends to be an outcry when the most competent person is overlooked, regardless of race. When Moseneke was overlooked there was the same outcry. I think what you’ve overlooked is that the reason the outcry always seems to be when white people are not appointed, is because in most cases white people are the ones overlooked when they’re more competent.

    Clive Plasket was overlooked for the SCA and Petse and Pillay were appointed whereas Plasket is undeniably better. Robert Nugent was overlooked despite being the best Judge in the country, and some black guy dug up from the labour Court of all places was appointed.

    Personally I’d like to think we still consider intellectual knowledge of the Law to be the most important consideration in appointing a Judge, race or no race.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ LoyosoQ

    “The racist is you.”

    With respect, you are wrong. African are incapable of racism. Professors De Vos and Vice will explain.


  • LoyisoQola

    Well, I suspect if their explanation is gripping enough Juju might be able to sue any newspaper that ever levelled a racist imputation against him

  • Chris (Not the right wing guy)