Majiedt has had previous ‘issues’ with one of the commissioners that was meant to be interviewing him for the Constitutional Court vacancy in October 2016: Northern Cape Judge President, Frans Kgomo. (Judge Majiedt was not interviewed in October after Judge Bosielo withdrew).
In 2006 the two judges were involved in an ugly racial spat after Kgomo overlooked Majiedt, the most senior judge in the division at the time, when proposing an acting replacement to the Justice Minister before going on leave.
Following his decision, Kgomo then lodged a misconduct complaint against Majiedt with the Judicial Service Commission. This was apparently sparked by Majiedt allegedly sending Kgomo a text message accusing him of being a “sly, devious, conniving person but also a coward”, motivated by “sheer racism and malice towards him [Judge Majiedt]”.
Majiedt then filed a counter-complaint of discrimination, nepotism and racism against Kgomo. The matter was reportedly settled by the commission without any of the judges involved being found guilty of an impeachable offence.
Majiedt has acted at the Constitutional Court from January to May 2014 during which time he heard 11 cases. Of these, Majiedt wrote a unanimous leading judgment in one case, dissented in two and wrote a separate concurring judgment in a single matter.
While famous for being on a panel of Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judges who overturned the North Gauteng High Court’s culpable homicide verdict against athlete Oscar Pistorius — the SCA, instead, found Pistorius guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp — Majiedt has more interesting judgments on his CV.
These include the 2014 Constitutional Court ruling in National Commissioner of the SAPS v Southern Africa Litigation Centre. While acting at the Constitutional Court Majiedt penned a unanimous judgment which found that the South African Police Service was obligated, under domestic and international law, to investigate crimes against humanity and torture allegedly committed in Zimbabwe by state officials. The matter related to incidents of violence allegedly perpetrated against Movement for Democratic Change activists in the build-up to the country’s 2007 elections. It is considered a landmark judgment in terms of universal jurisdiction.
Fifty-five year-old Majiedt, who was nominated by senior counsel Norman Arendse and Vincent Maleka, graduated with an LLB from the University of the Western Cape in 1983. He served as an advocate at the Cape Bar from 1984-1996 and as the Chief Provincial State Law Adviser to the Northern Cape Government from 1997– 2000. He was appointed to the Northern Cape High Court in 2000 and the Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2010.
Judicial Service Commission watchers would have been forgiven for mistakenly believing that Judge Stevan Majiedt was being interviewed for the deputy president vacancy at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
The majority of his questions revolved around the racial divisions in at the appellate court, following the revelations by acting SCA president Mandisa Maya during her interview for permanent appointment, of severe racial fractures there.
“There is a long way to go. In that court, there are attitudes of superiority and inferiority,” Majiedt observed, “unfortunately we do have groups in that court… it’s not only about race, its also about people’s attitudes about your not belonging there.”
He later described the atmosphere at the appellate court by adding that in their more patronising moods “some colleague pats you on the head like a ‘good little blackie’ (sic) and says you have written a good judgment”.
Asked by commissioner Thoko Didiza, an ANC MP, to comment on how the property clause in the Constitution was “crafted” and whether it aided or inhibited land reform, Majiedt said it was a “good clause” which was debated extensively at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa before South Africa’s transition form apartheid to democracy.
Majiedt said that even if a “willing seller, willing buyer” basis had not been established, land could be expropriated for reform, as long as there was “reasonable compensation” for that land.
He did point out to the politicians on the JSC that he felt that one of the major stumbling blocks to land reform was government’s lack of capacity to deal with the number of claims and the sometimes toxic self-interest that surrounds some claims — especially on land that may be mineral rich.
Responding to questions about his tiff with Northern Cape High Court Judge President Frans Kgomo (see profile above), he said they had buried the hatchet and were now “the best of friends” — something which Kgomo, who is attending his final commission sitting before retirement, confirmed later.