The current chairperson of the Free State Society of Advocates, Zietsman was conferred silk in 2009, nineteen years after he joined the Bar. He obtained a B.Juris and an LLB from the University of South Africa before working as a clerk and then prosecutor. He joined the magistracy in 1984, and the Bar in 1990.
A year ago, during Zietsman’s previous interview before the Judicial Service Commission, it emerged that judges on the Free State Bench had been seeking out his advice on commercial law cases. This had concerned the commission and, in his interview this year, Zietsman assured members that the practise had ended.
Zietsman was grilled on briefing patterns in Bloemfontein and transformation initiatives at the Free State Bar. He conceded that “experienced white” advocates at the Bar had a monopoly of certain types of specialised work, like sequestrations.
He said that “transformation is important, but in my view, experience is just as important”.
Zietsman said that as a South African, “I understand the social conditions [that the majority of black South Africans experience]… I know black people. I know some of their conditions”.
He dealt proficiently with the customary questions about what the separation of powers doctrine entailed and whether “judges can make the law”?
To the latter he answered that while judges “develop the common law according to the needs of the day” they are not empowered to draft and past statutes.
Asked whether politicians are allowed to criticise judgments by ANC parliamentarian Jomo Nyambi, Zietsman said informed comment was allowed but if one didn’t have the facts and unfairly criticised a ruling “it boils down to a contempt of court”.