The Judicial Service Commission has a nose for tripping up would-be linguists during interviews — especially when aspirant judges profess fluency in several of South Africa’s eleven official languages, which they don’t actually have.
So it will be interesting to see how Dr Andries Lamprecht, a regional magistrate in Mpumalanga, will fare after listing passive knowledge of four indigenous languages and a “fairly good” grasp of Fanakalo, which he describes as a “mine dialect” on his CV.
Lamprecht appears tough on crime. In Dlamini v S, a 2013 sentencing review in the North Gauteng High Court, Lamprecht had to consider whether an accomplice to a robbery with aggravating circumstances could be the beneficiary of a deviation from the minimum sentence of life imprisonment. He held that life imprisonment was justified in this instance — in which a victim was shot and killed execution-style at point-blank range — since there was no “substantial” or “compelling” circumstances for a lesser sentence.
Lamprecht has consistently held — as in Mofokeng and Others v S — that in cases of robbery with aggravating circumstances that particular crime is not separate to the robbery itself and that a perpetrator can be subject to the prescribed minimum sentence, despite not having intended the consequences.
A view which was confirmed by the Constitutional Court in S v Masingili in 2014.
Lamprecht obtained his B.Proc form the University of Pretoria in 1980 after which he served as a military legal officer in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for the next two years.
In his application form submitted for judicial appointment, Lamprecht states that during that period he “successfully prosecuted soldiers” for “atrocities and human rights transgressions” in Namibia, which the South African army had occupied during the 80s.
He said he left the army “disillusioned” after then-State President PW Both had used his powers in terms of national security legislation enacted at the time to reprieve a platoon of soldiers who had allegedly killed a civilian and then planted an AK-47 on the dead persons body and claimed he was a member of the South West African People’s Organisation.
Lamprecht stressed in his application that, while working as a state prosecutor in apartheid South Africa he never instigated pass-law and political prosecutions — which he, instead, “minimised to almost non-existent”.
After completing his LLB from the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 1998 Lamprecht completed a Masters in Law from Unisa with a thesis entitled International Law in Post-1994 South Africa’s Constitution’s Terminology and Application. His doctoral thesis on international law was completed in 2010.
The backlogs in the regional magistrates courts, where Lamprecht works, dominated the early part of his interview.
Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo noted that in some instances matters had been on the court roll for as long as six years and that there were 25 cases in Mpumalanga where prisoners had been awaiting trial for five years.
Mlambo said, with his oversight mandate of those courts, he had attempted to rectify this lethargy but there appeared to be resistance from those “in your ranks”. Asked to comment, Lamprecht said that he “sensed it” because it was “not overt” but that he was “doing everything that I can” to remedy this.
Lamprecht said that he personally adopted a “very strict approach… if a case is set down, I expect to hear it.”
Commenting on this, and the fact that magistrates appeared to be able to finalise all their judgments quickly when acting in the high court, Mlambo stated: “If you want to come to the high court we require a specific state of mind when dealing with work.”
During the easier parts of the interview, Lamprecht told the commission that while he was a white male, “I am transformed in my mind”. He had earlier told the commission that he has “always been a controversial and sometimes notorious person as a judicial officer” since he was “not scared to make a finding, even though there is no precedent.”
When quizzed on his conscription into the apartheid-era South African National Defence Force, Lamprecht said he felt he could change the system from within and assist in prosecuting war crimes perpetrated by the South African army in Namibia (which the army had occupied). He denied any involvement in Koevoet, the murderous South Africa paramilitary unit operating in Namibia at the time.