Following the uproar surrounding comments by High Court judge Mabel Jansen over black people and rape, a transcript of her interview with the Judicial Services Commission in 2013 before her appointment has revealed her position on a variety of issues.
The controversy around Jansen started after journalist Gillian Schutte posted excerpts of written exchanges with the judge, in which Jansen said, “In their culture a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman’s consent is not required.”
She also said, “I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious.”
As excerpts of the conversation were shared on social media, comments flooded back reflecting shock that a judge could hold such opinions.
Speaking to News24 at the weekend, Jansen said the comments referred specifically to the cases she had handled.
The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) confirmed on Tuesday that Jansen had requested that Justice Minister Michael Masutha place her on special leave.
Complaints were laid against her by Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana SC in his personal capacity, as well as in his capacity as Johannesburg branch chair of the Advocates for Transformation.
The Judicial Conduct Committee will now consider the complaints, and whether they are of a serious enough nature to warrant a judicial conduct tribunal.
The special leave request was granted on Wednesday.
Here are seven quotes from the transcript:
On being impartial and “more adventurous”
“I believe that one should of course be impartial. One must try and see to it that one addressed what one believes are wrongs, if one can… One can bring about change without going beyond the ambit of the Constitution, because I believe as [former] Justice [Laurie] Ackermann said, one can be very adventurous, which is wrong, and one can be very timid, which is also wrong, but one should strive to be more adventurous and that is one thing that I have done throughout my legal career.”
On being told she should “act like a man”
“The other very endearing factor that I found with one of the advocates who appeared before me, she was eight months pregnant and having had so much difficulty and resistance when I was pregnant and the men refusing to help me at all, I was told that I am in a man’s profession, I should act like a man and they wouldn’t even help me carry my bags or whatever and I accepted that. Ultimately the judges will be carrying my bags and I was feeling embarrassed about it. ”
On her fight against apartheid and her role in transformation
“I believe I could contribute to a large extent, because in maintaining the position that I did in actually fighting apartheid, because I started off in 1984, I demonstrated that one can accomplish something against great odds and it was not easy. It was a difficult process for me and I saw all the different cases that we went through and as a result of that, I believe I know what hardship means. I know what it is to be in a disadvantaged position.”
On a question on whether she was a “princess” because of her grandfather Ernest George Jansen, who was the Governor-General of South Africa from 1950 to 1959, and who was a member of the National Party.
“I doubt it. I’ve never felt like a princess. I was the Raggedy Ann of the legal profession for many, many years. I had to battle, really battle to make it. I cannot even begin to explain what an uphill battle it was.”
About her father Ernest Louis Jansen
“I just want to emphasise that my father was completely apolitical, because [journalist Chris Barron]… who always writes the most horrific things about so-called apartheid’s judges wrote about my father, a judge above politics, because … he was a voice crying in the desert saying that Mandela required legal representation and all kinds of things that we find in the Constitution these days and he voiced those opinions a long time ago and he wasn’t afraid to do so.”
The transformation basically is that we should try and reach the goals and the objects of the Constitution and in doing so, we must address a lot of issues such as access to courts, monetary matters and the like. I wrote in one of my judgments that I submitted … to that effect, and in general just to get to a point where the disadvantaged are in exactly the position of the advantaged and we can say that we are in an African Renaissance period, because we are actually giving effect to the goals of the Constitution and we should be working thereto.
About being a junior advocate
“… What they did with us when we were junior advocates is they put us all into one building, in the Standard Bank building on Church Square and I was nearly the next door neighbour of [now deputy chief justice] Dikgang Moseneke and we used to drink a lot of coffee…
It wasn’t easy and everybody, all the judges at that point in time said to me, you know, you should go back. I actually had judges yelling and shouting at me and telling me that I should go back to the kitchen and look after my children and had they not done so, maybe I would have gone back to my home, but because they made it difficult for me, I decided that I would show them that I am actually capable as a woman to maintain myself and build up a practice.”