Advocate Pieter Fischer SC obtained a BA from the University of Cape Town and an LLB from the University of the Free State. He was admitted to the Free State Bar in 1986 and was conferred silk in 2011. Since 1999 he has acted in the Free State High Court (14 months) and three terms in the Eastern Cape High Court. He is a judicial officer for the South African Rugby Union. According to his application form, Fischer is also writing a book, tentatively titled, Human Growth Leading to Humility.
Advocate Pieter Fischer SC is the nephew of acclaimed anti-apartheid lawyer Bram Fischer. During his interview, it became clear that if the elder Fischer was a colossus, the younger one’s stature as a reconstructed South Africa, is closer to that of a pygmy.
Fischer in rather grandiose and purple language started his interview by talking about having realised that “for years” he had “adopted the wrong approach” to life in South Africa. He told the commission that he had embarked on a “journey of self-discovery” and “spiritual introspection” which led him to realise his “Constitutional obligation to give back” — hence his yearning to be appointed to the Bench.
Free State Premier Ace Magashule asked Fischer about what contribution he would make to fighting racism if he were appointed a judge. The advocate responded that “we have to simply transform society and that involves the transformation of the individual”. He added that as a “progressive judge” he would enable this since he believed that “we are all humans before we are male or female, black or white”.
From there on in the slippery slope that Fischer was already navigating, became a cliff. And he jumped off it with two feet firmly placed in his mouth.
On the indigenous language question — which has tripped up more white candidates this week than a kilogram of acid — Fischer admitted that he was “embarrassed” not being able to speak an African language aside from learning to swear in Sesotho while thinking himself a “clever little man” on his grandparent’s farm: “I wish I could apologise to the nation at large,” Fischer ended with a flourish.
Fischer then admitted to the Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema that despite this apparently profound regret he had made no attempt to learn an additional language, because it would be “difficult” at his “age”. Malema told Fischer that this disinclination showed he demonstrated “bad judgment” since he had not attempted to test this preconceived conclusion by attempting to learn a language.
Fischer’s position on language riled several members of the JSC, since, as the Democratic Alliance’s Hendrik Schmidt pointed out, Fisher had included in his application form that he self-identified as an African because of an “affinity” to the continent’s “soil”, “colour” and “sound” amongst others.
Malema eventually pointed out to Fischer that the commission had taken him to task on his language deficiency, not because they expected him to conduct trials in various South African languages, “which may be a mess”. The commission, rather, was exploring whether Fischer, if appointed, would be the the kind of “judge who wants to reach out to the people of South Africa”.
Fischer’s paucity of transformative credentials also extended to his practise as an advocate. Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, filling in for Northern Cape Judge President Frans Kgomo, probed Fischer on the number of black juniors he had either led in trials or who had served their pupillage with him. To the latter, Fischer guessed two people (out of seven or eight), whose names he could not remember and that he had instructed black juniors as per the requirements of the State Attorney’s office.