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Judge Lebotsang “Ronnie” Bosielo

Candidate bio: 

Currently a Judge at the Supreme Court of Appeal, Bosielo has previously interviewed unsuccessfully for a position at the Constitutional Court.

In 2012 he lost out to Judge Ray Zondo, and, while his name was put forward by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to president Jacob Zuma a year later, then-advocate Mbuyiseli Madlanga was appointed instead.

His 2012 interview was spacious, a convivial exercise of minds, during which Bosielo stressed to the JSC the importance of access to justice, the gender transformation of the judiciary which he found “stagnant”, and the need to transform traditional courts and indigenous law so that these were “consonant with the Constitution”.

In an interview with legal journal, De Rebus, Bosielo expressed concerns about access to the Constitutional Court; “I have observed the Constitutional Court with keen interest as a lawyer. I thought that that court was conceived as a court that would be pro-poor and help to translate the pious promises in our very liberal and aspirational Constitution into reality. However, I have become despondent to see this important court being turned into a court for the elites and well-heeled. With the passage of time this court has become prohibitively expensive for ordinary people to access, thus nullifying the ideal of making justice accessible to all the people. I would prefer to see this court seen as a symbol of hope for justice for all the people.”

Bosielo has sometimes shown a lighter touch when adjudicating and sentencing in cases, preferring restorative to punitive justice when of the opinion that it would offer a better solution to fighting criminality.

For example; when overturning a nine-month sentence for chicken-theft in favour of a suspended sentence, Bosielo noted that the complainant in the case would have been happier with compensation for the seven stolen fowl.

But, as in NDPP v Thabethe, an appeal of sentence in a case where a minor was raped by her mother’s live-in lover, he felt; “obliged to caution seriously against the use of restorative justice as a sentence for serious offences which evoke profound feelings of outrage and revulsion amongst law-abiding and right-thinking members of society”.

The most senior of the candidates for the Constitutional Court vacancy, Bosielo obtained a B.Juris and LLB from the University of Limpopo and an LLM from the University of Johannesburg where he also acquired a Diploma in Advanced Corporate Law.

Bosielo served at the North Gauteng High Court from 2001 to 2009 before being appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal in October 2009. He also acted as judge president of the Northern Cape High Court from 2007 to 2008 and at the Constitutional Court in 2012 and 2016.

 

*We apologise for the poor sound quality*

Interview synopsis: 

Interviews at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) can sometimes veer towards the soporific. At others, they provide more fire and brimstone than the barricades of a street protest.

Tuesday morning’s first interview, of Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judge Ronnie Bosielo for a vacancy at the Constitutional  Court, was certainly an example of the latter — more explosive than a Molotov cocktail.

The JSC had received a complaint relating to Bosielo, and his family’s, involvement in disputes over traditional leadership and mining rights in the North West province from where Bosielo hails — and that they had improperly benefited financially from this involvement.

Following a searing interview of Bosielo, the judge withdrew his candidacy for the Constitutional Court vacancy. The JSC then took a decision not to interview the other three candidates as it would not have had enough names to submit for President Jacob Zuma’s consideration to make an appointment. The Constitution requires the JSC to submit three more names for each vacancy at the country’s highest court.

According to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, in a press conference after Bosielo’s interview, one of the complaints related to Bosielo allegedly being “a director of a company [Sentlhaga Investments] that has financial interests in the same mining operation [at Northam Platinum Ltd in the North West Province] that his community, his village, benefits from through a trust”.

The Baphalane community had lodged a land claim on the area Northam has been mining in the province. The community derives benefits from the mining through a community trust, the Batlatse Development Trust. The trust formed part of a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) vehicle, Mpilo Resources (Pty) Ltd, in the mine’s ownership structure. Sentlhaga was also part of this BEE vehicle.

There are also allegations that the involvement of Bosielo, and his family, extended to supporting one “royal faction” with chieftainship claims over another and reports of alleged arson apparently related to the traditional leadership divisions.

The eyebrow-raising contents of the complaint include that Bosielo’s email address appears in documents “apparently reserved for a director” according to Mogoeng — Bosielo denied that he was a director during his interview.

Bosielo admitted to the commission that his brother, Peter Bosielo, was a director at Sentlhaga but faced further grilling when it emerged that while the director listed on the company’s profile was a “Judge Peter Boishelo”, the accompanying list of credentials (qualifications and career history) was that of Judge Ronnie Bosielo. It was confirmed that Peter Bosielo is not a judge.

Asked by the IFP’s Narend Singh how, and why, this was the case, Bosielo said he had “raised it, they said it was a mistake and they expunged it…”

The complaint also noted that Judge Ronnie Bosielo’s wife was, in September, registered as a director of Sentlhaga, and that the Constitutional Court candidate was therefore “benefitting financially through his wife” from interventions in the area.

Mogoeng broached the subject of alleged impropriety early on in Bosielo’s interview, saying he could not shy away from the “inevitable” and asked Bosielo to explain his involvement in the matter.

Bosielo maintained that, having grown up in this village, which was home to “the poorest of the poor” his involvement was to enquire from Mpilo as to “what are you going to do in terms of development” of the community.

Bosielo said he felt “seriously defamed and denigrated” by the allegations, which were being driven by a “bitter man who hates me” and was fuelled by the “perception… that I am blocking his way to the chieftainship”.

When accused by the Economic Freedom Fighters’ parliamentarian Julius Malema that Bosielo was “actually in it for yourself, only yourself”, the judge maintained that “I have not received a cent from it, I don’t expect to receive any money from it”. Bosielo maintained protestations that he was intent on developing the community.

Bosielo said that before he was first involved in “uplifting the community” he had gone back and “read quite a lot about judicial ethics” and hadn’t found anything preventing his involvement.

He was later pushed by Malema to “do the honourable thing” and withdraw his candidacy for the Constitutional Court. After several more questions, Bosielo conceded, and did withdraw his candidacy.

Mogoeng said the matter “will be possibly processed with the relevant JSC structures”. For more click here.