Advocate Cornelius van der Westhuizen SC has acted in both the North and South Gauteng seats of the high court from 2015-2017.
During one of those stints this year he heard the urgent application brought by the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) against Black First Land First (BLF) to stop the latter from actions and conduct alleged to constitute harassment, intimidation and threats in respect of journalists’ bodily and physical integrity, their safety, liberty and their right to earn a living. This followed a BLF protest outside the house of the Times Media Group’s Peter Bruce, during which Bruce’s colleague, Tim Cohen, was attacked.
“The incident… at the home of the second applicant clearly demonstrates that the respondents do not intend to follow peaceful protest. A gathering where participants are armed with sticks and golf clubs, defacing private property, invading the property and turning off the water supply, assault on the person of fellow journalists who show support for their colleague targeted, hardly constitutes a peaceful protest. Such gathering clearly has the attributes of a protest with the intention to harass, intimidate and threaten. In particular where it takes place within the sanctity of a private home,” Van der Westhuizen wrote.
He found that if the BLF’s claim that “their conduct and actions are directed at the racist and biased reporting of the journalists” were true, “the protest should be directed at the profession of the journalist and the place where that profession is followed, not at the private home or place of worship of the journalist.”
He granted the interdict and ordered the BLF to issue a public statement to all Sanef members stating that the BLF does not condone any of the above acts perpetrated within 12 hours of the order being granted.
A keen fencer he has served a the vice-president of the North Gauteng Fencing Union and as an Ex Officio member of the South African Amateur Fencing Association.
Van Der Westhuizen holds a BA and LLB from the University of Pretoria.
October 2017 Interview:
October 2017 – Interview synopsis:
Sometimes the Judicial Service Commission can be viciously rigorous on matters of transformation, the ability of candidates to speak an indigenous language, personal ethics, morals and their sense of judgment, and the length of time required to hand down judgements.
Sometimes, a breezy reference to religion or a smattering of broken Xhosa early on, can deescalate the temperature in the interview room. This appeared the case for Advocate Cornelius van der Westhuizen SC, who, in a previous interview, had dismissed the need for him to know an indigenous language because he was “a lawyer” and not “a linguist”.
This time, Van der Westhuizen’s use of broken Sepedi early on in the interview seemed to feed whatever bloodlust the commission may have been harbouring. His interview was short and smooth — all of fifteen minutes — but enough time to convince the commission that he should be appointed this time around.
The commission sometimes holds shorter interviews with candidates who have appeared before it previously — as Van Der Westhuizen had — and are furnished with a record of those interviews which assist in the deliberation process.
During his fifteen minutes in the hot-seat Advocate Dali Mpofu SC commended the candidate on his excellent judgment writing skills in a “complex” social grants case in which Mpofu had appeared. Van der Westhuizen said as a student he was constantly “irked” by the loquacious judgments he studied and aimed to be more succinct, which he did by approaching it as an “analytical exercise”.
October 2016 interview:
October 2016 – Interview synopsis:
Advocate Corrie van der Westhuizen’s interview crashed on the candidate’s unapologetic whiteness — much like the Titanic and the iceberg.
Van der Westhuizen, who described apartheid as a project to “separate the races” rather than anything more systematically violent and dehumanising, told the Judicial Service Commission that he did not benefit from apartheid and that everything he had achieved, he had worked for.
He remained adamant that he did not learn an indigenous African language since he is “not a linguist but a lawyer”. This was at the end of a long exchange between Van der Westhuizen and Economic Freedom Fighters where the firebrand politician had accused the lawyer of “defending apartheid”.
Quizzed by Gauteng education minister Panyaza Lesufi on his serving as a conscript in the apartheid-era South African National Defence Force, rather than conscientiously objecting, Van der Westhuizen, who described himself as an “apolitical person”, conceded that he had agreed to carry arms in defence of the apartheid state — while aware that apartheid was an unjust system.
Van der Westhuizen said he had made that decision because “if you refused to do the conscription you were treated as a criminal”.
He maintained that “If I had been averse [to serving in the army] it would have tarnished my ability to assist later, which I did.” An assertion that did not appear to bear scrutiny when the commission enquired about Van der Westhuizen’s record in using black and female junior counsel, especially in his specialised areas of work.
Asked by Malema about the longest period he had time in a township, after much squirming and stating that he was not a person who “watched the time”, Van der Westhuizen said it would be “a couple of hours”.
By the time commissioners had started asking Van der Westhuizen about case law, the judgments he had handed down and matters related to intellectual property rights both internationally and in this country, Van der Westhuizen’s ship had already sunk.