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Judge Ilse van Rhyn

Ilse Van Rhyn - JSC Interviews - October 2019

Current position: Judge
Date Appointed: April 2022
Other appointments: Joined the Bar in 1993
Ethnicity: White
Gender: Female

Candidate bio:

South Africa’s gruesome gang culture featured in Van Rhyn’s in-tray during her acting stints — for seven months in 2018 and for the first term in 2019 — in the Free State Division of the High Court.

In August this year she sentenced three men — aged 22, 23 and 26 — believed to be members of the Bloemfontein gang Born to Kill (BTK) to three life sentences each for the murder of three alleged rival gang members, the Maroma Gang.

They were given an additional 15 years for each of the three counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances (two pairs of shoes and a hat were stolen), and three years each for contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

The three had been charged with 14 others, but a minor co-accused had absconded after being released and the others were acquitted as the trial unfolded.

The throats of the deceased were slit, they had been stabbed several times — in one instance a victim had seventy stab wounds — and then bludgeoned with large rocks.

On 29 November 2018 Van Rhyn heard the matter, Wealth 4 All Solutions v Ntoaleng, delivering judgment the following day.

Maria Ntoaleng had previously been interdicted from making unlawful and defamatory statements about the business and business affairs of Wealth 4 All Solutions.

In these proceedings, the applicant sought to interdict the respondent from making allegedly unlawful and defamatory statements “to the public” regarding the applicant’s business affairs, and from “dissuading members of the public” from investing in the applicant’s business.

Van Rhyn noted that as the applicant sought a final interdict, any disputes of fact would have to be determined in terms of the Plascon-Evans rule, whereby the version on the respondents’ papers would be accepted unless it did not raise a genuine dispute of fact or was clearly untenable.

Noting that certain facts were in dispute Van Rhyn then considered whether the applicant had shown a clear right. She found the applicant, in “failing to state the alleged defamatory statements made by the Respondent and in light of the Respondent’s version that she, being aware of the order granted by this court, severed all ties with the Applicant and has not made any unlawful and defamatory statements to the public regarding the business affairs of the Applicant, the Applicant has not made out a case for the relief claimed …”

She found the applicant had not provided further information regarding Ntoaleng’s conduct and whether it had lost any potential investment as a consequence of such conduct.

Van Rhyn found the evidence before court regarding Ntoaleng’s alleged unlawful conduct was “not clear and comprehensive” that there were “disputes of fact” which could not be resolved on paper and which the applicant should have foreseen. The application was dismissed with costs.

The 55 year-old Van Rhyn holds a B Iuris (1984) and an LLB (1987) from the University of the Free State. In 1997 she obtained an advanced diploma in labour law from the University of Johannesburg. After completing her articles and working as an attorney Van Rhyn joined the Bar in 1993.

April 2022 Interview

Adv Ilse Van Rhyn’s April 2022 interview for a position on the Free State Division of the High Court was successful. She was nominated for appointment.

October 2019 interview:

October 2019 Interview Synopsis

Bloemfontein advocate Ilse van Rhyn who applied for a permanent appointment to the Free State high court bench this week, has been at the Bar for 23 years.

She said her acting appointments on the high court had been very useful and had given her confidence.

Like other candidates she was asked what she would bring to the bench, if appointed. Van Rhyn said she had listened to an interview with recently-retired Constitutional Court judge, Edwin Cameron. ‘He said every judge on the South African bench should be an activist for justice and equality and the other values of the constitution.’

‘I agree with him and (try to) be mindful of what happened in the past.’ She said these were the values that she would bring to the bench, adding ‘I am also mindful of being impartial in applying the law.’

In one of her acting stints she had been involved in rape cases, ‘and I expressed concern that these matters seemed to be increasing.’ A colleague, who is a permanent member of the court, confirmed her observations. ‘What we hear on the news and radio is true. There are increasing numbers of gender violence cases.’

During a discussion of the causes of this increase, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked rhetorically whether, if you looked at cases of rape, the perpetrators would be business people or poor people? The overwhelming majority would be poor people, he observed.

Van Rhyn said she agreed that perpetrators were often people with no income and who lived in ‘desperate’ conditions. But rapists might come from any social stratum and from all walks of life.

She was questioned about an appeal in a case where a five year old child had been raped. Van Rhyn said she and a permanent judge who dealt with the appeal, were concerned about the evidence given by the child, aged six at the time of the trial. But the problem lay not only in the child’s answers. ‘We concluded that she was influenced to give certain answers. Due to the doubt that existed in our minds we agreed to overturn the conviction.’

Advocate Ilse van Rhyn was not recommended for appointment.