Eastern Cape High Court judge Johannes Eksteen said he learnt “with some surprise” over the last few days of a toxic atmosphere at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
“I have enjoyed wonderful collegiality with all my colleagues in that court and I think it functions wonderfully well,” said Eksteen.
Eksteen is one of 11 candidates for five vacancies on the SCA, SA’s second highest appeal court. He was interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Wednesday.
He was referring to recurring allegations over the years that there was a group of senior judges at the SCA who mistreated junior and acting judges and had made working conditions very difficult for them at the Bloemfontein court.
The situation had become so bad that the court’s president, Mandisa Maya, had during a JSC session in April 2017 publicly laid bare the toxic working environment. In interviews with other candidates over the years, the culprits, who were never named, became known as “the top six”. In later interviews, candidates said that, after interventions from Maya, things had got a lot better.
In interviews on Monday, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked Constitutional Court candidate Rammaka Mathopo about the “top six”, specifically why the issue had not received more public attention and why they had not been named and shamed.
Mathopo suggested it may be because they were “of a particular colour” but also declined to name them, saying that those who complained had not named names, so he would be reporting what he heard.