Sardiwalla has acted at the Land Claims Court for six years and has also served stints in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng high courts.
He has been the managing partner of his own firm for thirty years. Sardiwalla has served on various legal bodies, including the Rules Board for the Courts of Law, as vice-president of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society and on the Advosory Board for Small Claims.
He holds a BProc from the University of South Africa and the University of Durban-Westville.
October 2017 Interview:
October 2017 – Interview synopsis
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is concerned by the state of South Africa’s democracy — made obvious in the various rallying calls in his judgments and public appearances.
But, at heart, Mogoeng is an administrator, not philosopher. So every Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interview usually starts with an examination of the candidate’s views on case flow management and the length of time it has taken them to hand down reserved judgments.
Often, it feels as if the discussion about reserved judgments last as long as the prescribed three months judges have to deliver them.
The chief justice’s point, made often, is valid and simple: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
While the devil may be in the detail, the lengthy expositions on delayed judgments, which rarely delve into the quality of those delivered timeously, leaves many JSC-watchers praying for divine intervention.
For the yawning gallery, this appeared the case with attorney Cassim Sardiwalla, who did the requisite grovelling for his tardiness, describing his reserved judgments as “something that troubles me… that embarrasses me”. He said the “lengthy trial”, “volumes of evidence” and lack of researchers at the Land Claims Court had contributed to his late delivery of a particular judgement.
Things got a bit meatier once commissioner Jomo Nyambi, one of ANC members of parliament on the JSC, asked Sardiwalla about the language used, and sentiments expressed, in a judgment regarding the rape of a 13-year-old mentally impaired girl.
Sardiwalla had referred to the type of clothing that the survivor had been wearing and the that the perpetrator would have been up for the death penalty if it had not been abolished in 1995 by the Constitutional Court.
Sardiwalla said “in retrospect” he “realises that both these comments were not becoming… My analogy that I used was a very poor one because I believe everyone is entitled to dress as they wish.”
Apologising for the comments, Sardiwalla said he was “embarrassed by them and I distance myself from them”.
Of his experience in the Land Claims Court, Sardiwalla said his Salem judgement “talks to” the need to “relook the 1913 cut-off date for land claims” in South Africa. In 1913 the Land Act, which led to widespread dispossession of black-owned land, was enacted.
Responding to a question from ANC member of parliament Thoko Didiza about the burial rights of labour tenants, Sardiwalla said most of the urgent applications in Land Claim Court on weekends had been about communities and claimants wanting to bury their dead.
He said this required “urgent and pointed legislation” to remedy grieving families having to scrape money together to make such urgent applications during periods of mourning.
“Its just untenable in our democracy,” said Sardiwalla.
He also urged more appointments to the Land Claims Court because it was under severe strain as more claims were being made and because the nature of the cases, which included in loco inspections, “meant they cannot be run like high court cases”.