Advocate Rean Strydom SC has heard the usual range of matters which dominate the high court roll while acing on the bench: Road Accident Fund claims, the range of criminal matters and appeals against conviction and sentencing linked to the country’s high crime rates and civil procedure matters.
In 2016 he convicted a killer who alleged drank his victims’ blood, handing down an effective 30-year sentence.
Mzameleni Cele was found guilty of two counts of murder, two of attempted murder, the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and one of assault with intent to cause bodily harm. Strydom sentenced Cele to 15 years imprisonment for each count of murder, ten years for each count of attempted murder, five years for possession of a firearm, two years for possession of ammunition, and two years for the assault charge. The sentences were to run concurrently.
Cele, who laughed when sentenced was handed down, had gone on several killing sprees — usually at the same tavern he drank at, over a two year prior. After the killings of random patrons he allegedly drank their blood, in one instance he sprinkled snuff on his victim’s body.
An advocate for over 35 years Strydom was conferred silk (senior counsel) in 2010. His wide experience includes 12 years covering criminal matters, including his Pro Deo representation of 18 Inkatha Freedom Party members accused of participating in the Boipatong Massacre which left 45 people dead.
His October 2018 interview for a position on the Gauteng Bench will be Strydom’s third before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). In October 2015 several commissioners interrogated Strydom about his inability to brief black juniors, female especially, with the aim of transforming the legal sector. He didn’t impress, admitting to only having briefed black juniors “once or twice” because he “didn’t have the opportunity” to do so.
In response to one of commissioner Mathole Motshekga’s customary observational meanderings — this time about judges needing to be connected to people from various walks of South African life so as to understand the country’s social justice needs — Strydom produced one of those painfully cringe-inducing moments that some white male candidates have made synonymous with JSC sittings.
He agreed with Motshekga, going on to record that he “connects so well” with the labourers on his farm.
Strydom’s B.Comm (1997) and LLB (1979) degrees were completed at the University of Stellenbosch. He holds two Masters in Law degrees from the University of Johannesburg (formerly Rand Afrikaans University), in Constitutional Law (1994) and Corporation Law (2004).
October 2018 Interview
October 2018 Interview Synopsis
In Exodus, there is a warning that the sins of fathers shall be visited upon their sons.
Perhaps Advocate Rean Strydom SC should have headed for the exit door as soon as Gauteng education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, representing the provincial premier on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) during interviews for the Gauteng Division of the High Court, pointed out that his father was “a very difficult judge” who had “hampered transformation”.
Strydom maintained that he was a “different person” with different values to this father, who had worked as judge in then-South West Africa (Namibia) and in Gauteng. Strydom remembered calling him out on one occasion — the sentence imposed on a matter heard in Polokwane. Strydom did not go into the detail of this incident.
It was suggested to Strydom that his appointment would not enhance the transformation of the judiciary. He responded by saying he had, aside from his father, many other influences and that his knowledge of the constitution and independent-mindedness would assist in transforming the judiciary.
He reiterated that during 88 weeks of acting in the high court since 2011 he had always applied the law with a fairness which meant there were no complaints against him and delivered judgments timeously. “There have been no complaints that I was hard [with litigants], anti-government or anything,” Strydom said.
During an exchange over a family farm which was being run as a commercial macadamia nut enterprise, Strydom appeared unable to grasp that if appointed, he was expected to give up his directorship. He maintained it was a small concern of insignificant monetary value — a vanity project more than anything else.
Speaking of the labourers on the farm, in relation to his inability to speak an indigenous language, Strydom said: “They grew up with us, we know them well, we trust them, we communicate in English and to some extent, in Afrikaans.”
When asked about his judicial philosophy, Strydom said he “believed in the Constitution” which he applied, and that “substance must prevail over form”.
Strydom wasn’t recommended for appointment.
October 2015 JSC Interview – Read the transcript.