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Onica van Papendorp


Current Position: Regional Magistrate

October 2017 Interview synopsis:

Magistrate Onica van Papendorp was cricticsed for her decision to serve acting stints while she still had part-heard matters awaiting her attention at her regular nine-to-five in the lower court.

Advocate Thabani Masuku, one of four appointments to the Judicial Service Commission by President Jacob Zuma, described her “poor judgment” as an “injustice” which deprived litigants swift justice.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng criticised her for elevating “an opportunity for career advancement” rather than delivering justice: “Does it not reflect negatively on your judgment?”
Van Papendorp conceded that it did.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe noted that Van Papendorp had listed her learning Xhosa on her application form and enquired the progress made on that. Van Papendorp said that while apparently trying to pick up from childhood, she had a minimal passive knowledge of the language — which did not suggest much about her commitment to learning. Judge Hlophe’s quick test of her language skills in telling her in isiXhosa that he’s hungry and wants food left her unable to follow. She was given a much easier escape route than previous candidates who have been crucified by the commissioners for suggesting that they know an indigenous language when they don’t.


October 2017 Interview: