I fought apartheid, Judge Mabel Jansen said in JSC interview
Johannesburg - Embattled High Court Judge Mabel Jansen told the Judicial Service Commission before her appointment in 2013 that she fought apartheid and knew what hardship meant.
She was asked how she saw herself as an agent of change in transformation of the judiciary, according to a transcript of her interview with the JSC.
"I believe I could contribute to a large extent, because in maintaining the position that I did in actually fighting apartheid, because I started off in 1984, I demonstrated that one can accomplish something against great odds and it was not easy.
"It was a difficult process for me and I saw all the different cases that we went through and as a result of that, I believe I know what hardship means. I know what it is to be in a disadvantaged position."
Jansen was asked if she was a "princess" because of her grandfather, Ernest George Jansen. He was the Governor-General of South Africa from 1950 to 1959, and a National Party member.
"I’ve never felt like a princess. I was the Raggedy Ann of the legal profession for many, many years. I had to battle, really battle to make it. I cannot even begin to explain what an uphill battle it was," she responded.
There were remnants of apartheid in the justice system "that we need to pay attention to with regard to serving the poor, the farm workers, and the homeless".
As an advocate, she was not briefed again after she lost a case, due to discrimination against women in the profession.
"An attorney who asks you for the first time to do a case and you do it to the best of your ability and you draft the papers, even as a Silk, if you lose a case, the sanction is that they say well you briefed to a woman, that’s the reason why you lost the case.
"I believe that my black colleagues to some extent also experience that and I find that there are very few black female advocates who managed to get good jobs."
It was a male-dominated profession and the inequality had to a large extent come from apartheid, she said.
“It was seen that especially if you were black, but even if you were a woman, that was the one thing that amazed me most of all, was that they had no faith in you."
Told that this did not necessarily have anything to do with apartheid, she said: "Well, apartheid between men and women, for sure."
The controversy around Jansen arose after journalist Gillian Schutte over the weekend posted excerpts of written exchanges she had with Jansen about a year ago.
Referring to those cases she had presided over, Jansen said of black people: "In their culture a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman's consent is not required."
"I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious," she said.
As excerpts of the conversation were shared on social media, people expressed shock that a judge could hold such opinions.
The JSC on Tuesday said Jansen had asked Justice Minister Michael Masutha to place her on special leave, while complaints against her were dealt with.
Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana SC laid a complaint against her in his personal capacity, and in his capacity as Johannesburg branch chair of Advocates for Transformation.
The JSC’s Judicial Conduct Committee would decide if the complaints were serious enough to warrant a judicial conduct tribunal.
A petition on Amandla.mobi, calling on the JSC and the Justice Department to remove Jansen, had over 5 700 electronic signatures by Wednesday morning.