The Employment Status of Magistrates in South Africa and the Concept of Judicial Independence


  • Leana Diedericks



Magistrates, Judicial independence, Employment status


Protection in terms of labour law is primarily only available to persons with status as employees. In South Africa the courts have over the years developed different tests to establish who is an employee and therefore entitled to protection afforded by labour law. These tests have been incorporated into legislation. The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 provides for a definition and presumption of who is an employee. The Act further excludes certain categories of persons from its application and ambit. Although magistrates have not expressly been excluded from the application of the Act, it has been held that they are not employees, because such a categorisation would infringe upon the principle of judicial independence as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Repubblic of South Africa, 1996.

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate whether magistrates could be categorised as employees in terms of the traditional tests of employment and still be able to maintain judicial independence as required by the South African Constitution.


Google_Scholar_81.png   ScienceOpen_Log0319.png


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...




Ajibola and Van Zyl The Judiciary in Africa

Ajibola B and Van Zyl D (eds) The Judiciary in Africa (Juta Cape Town 1998)

Benjamin 2009 ILJ

Benjamin P “Conciliation, Arbitration and Enforcement: The CCMA’s Achievements and Challenges” 2009 ILJ 26-48

Benjamin 2004 ILJ

Benjamin P “An Accident of History: Who is (and Who Should Be) an Employee under South African Law” 2004 ILJ 787- 804

Brassey 1990 ILJ

Brassey M “The Nature of Employment” 1990 ILJ 889-936

Carpenter 2005 TSAR

Carpenter G “Without Fear or Favour- Ensuring the Independence and Credibility of the “Weakest and Least Dangerous Branch of Government” 2005 TSAR 499-513

Carpenter 2006 CILSA

Carpenter G “Judiciaries in the Spotlight” 2006 CILSA 361-384

Casale The Employment Relationship

Casale G (ed) The Employment Relationship: A Comparative Overview (Hart Publishing Oxford 2011)

Clark Comparative Law and Society

Clark DS (ed) Comparative Law and Society (Edward Elgar Publishing Limited Cheltenham 2012)

Cole Management Theory and Practice

Cole GA Management Theory and Practice 6th ed (Cengage Learning London 2004)

Diedericks and Van Eck 2015 THRHR

Diedericks L and Van Eck BPS “Claims Against Employees: Interpretation and Application of Section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997.” 2015 THRHR 476-487

Du Bois Wille’s Principles

Du Bois F (ed) Wille’s Principles on South African Law 9th ed (Juta Cape Town 2007)

Franco and Powell 2004 SALJ

Franco J and Powell C “The Meaning of Institutional Independence in Van Rooyen v The State” 2004 SALJ 562-579

Hahlo and Kahn The South African Legal System

Hahlo HR and Kahn E The South African Legal System and its Background (Juta Cape Town 1973)

Hatchard and Slinn Parliamentary Supremacy

Hatchard J and Slinn P (eds) Parliamentary Supremacy and Judicial Supremacy: A Commonwealth Approach (Cavendish Publishing Limited London 1999)

Holland, Burnett and Millington Employment Law

Holland J, Burnett S and Millington P Employment Law 23rd ed (Oxford University Press Oxford 2016)

Kleyn and Viljoen Beginner’s Guide

Kleyn D and Viljoen F Beginner’s Guide for law Students 3rd ed (Juta Cape Town 2002)

Le Roux 2007 SALJ

Le Roux R “The Worker: Towards Labour Law’s New Vocabulary” 2007 SALJ 469-479

Malleson 1997 Modern Law Review

Malleson K “Judicial Training and Performance Appraisal: The Problem of Judicial Independence”1997 Modern Law Review 655-667

Nkosi 2015 De Jure

Nkosi TG “The President of RSA v Reinecke 2014 3 SA 205 (SCA): Constructive Dismissal and the Changing Identity of the Employer: A Critique of Some of the Findings Made by the Supreme Court of Appeal” 2015 De Jure 232-243

Nugent 2000 Advocate

Nugent R “Judicial Independence Under Threat?” 2000 Advocate 37-38

Olivier 2008 TSAR

Olivier M “Reflections on the Essence of Employment Status: Ministers of Religion, Judges and Magistrates” 2008 TSAR 1-15

Radley and Smit 2010 Obiter

Radley H and Smit N “The Contract of Employment in Labour Law: Obstacle or Panacea” 2010 Obiter 247-263

Russell and O’Brien Judicial Independence

Russell PH and O’Brien DM (eds) Judicial Independence in the Age of Democracy: Critical Perspectives from around the World (University Press of Virginia Charlottesville 2001)

Shetreet and Forsyth The Culture of Judicial Independence

Shetreet S and Forsyth C (eds) The Culture of Judicial Independence: Conceptual Foundations and Practical Challenges (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers Leiden 2012)

Shetreet and Turenne Judges on Trial

Shetreet S and Turenne S Judges on Trial: The Independence and Accountability of the English Judiciary 2nd ed (Cambridge University Press Cambridge 2013)

Van Dijkhorst 2000 Advocate

Van Dijkhorst K “The Future of the Magistry” 2000 Advocate 39-42

Van Eck and Diedericks 2014 ILJ

Van Eck BPS and Diedericks L “Are Magistrates Without Remedy in terms of Labour Law? President of SA & Others v Reinecke 2014 (3) SA 205 (SCA); (2014) 35 ILJ 1585 (SCA)” 2014 ILJ 2700-2710

Van Jaarsveld and Van Eck Principles

Van Jaarsveld SR and Van Eck BPS Principles of Labour Law 3rd ed (LexisNexis Butterworths Durban 2005)

Van Niekerk et al Law@work

Van Niekerk A et al Law@work 3rd ed (LexisNexis Durban 2015)

Wallis 2012 SALJ

Wallis M “Judges: Servants of Justice or Civil Servants?” 2012 SALJ 652-680

Case law

Association of Regional Magistrates of Southern Africa v President of RSA 2013(7) BCLR 762 (CC)

Bank Voor Handel En Scheepvaart NV v Slatford (1952) 2 All ER 956 (CA)

Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd v MacDonald 1931 AD 412 435

De Lange v Smuts 1998 (3) SA 785 (CC)

Denel (Pty) Ltd v Gerber (2005) 26 ILJ 1256 (LAC)

Department of Health, Eastern Cape v Odendaal (2009) 30 ILJ 2093 (LC)

Discovery Health v CCMA (2008) 29 ILJ 1480 (LC)

Ex Parte Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly: In re Certification of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 1996 4 SA 744 (CC)

Khanyile v CCMA 2004 ILJ 2348 (LC)

Kylie v CCMA (2010) 31 ILJ 1600 (LAC)

LDM du Plessis obo L Pretorius v Department of Justice unreported award number GA 26670 considered by Commissioner PJ van der Merwe, 17 December 2002

Liberty Life Association of Africa Ltd v Niselow (1996) 17 ILJ 673

Mandla v LAD Brokers (Pty) Ltd (2000) 21 ILJ 1807 (LC)

Murray v Minister of Defence 2009 (3) SA 130 (SCA)

National Director of Public Prosecutions v Naidoo 2011 (1) SACR 336 (SCA)

O’Brien v Ministry of Justice C- 393/10

O’Brien v Ministry of Justice (formerly the Department of Constitutional Affairs) [2013] UKSC6

Ongevallekommissaris v Onderlinge Versekeringsgenootskap AVBOB 1976 (4) SA 446 (A)

Pam Golding Properties (Pty) Ltd v Erasmus (2010) 31 ILJ 1460 (LC)

Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa (Pty) Ltd v Tshabalala-Msimang NO: New Clicks South Africa (Pty) Ltd v Minister of Health 2005 (3) SA 238 (SCA)

R v AMCA Services Ltd 1959 (4) SA 207 (A)

R v AMCA Services Ltd 1962 (4) SA 537 (A)

Reinecke v The President of South Africa unreported case number 25705/ 2004 of 4 September 2012

President of SA v Reinecke 2014 (3) SA 205 (SCA)

SABC v McKenzie 1999 20 ILJ (LAC)

Smit v Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner 1979 (1) SA 51 (A)

State Information Technology Agency (SITA) (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & others [2008] 7 BLLR 611 (LAC)

Stein v Rising Tide Productions (CC) (2002) 23 ILJ 2017 (C)

Valente v The Queen (1986) 24 DLR (4th) 161 (SCC)

Van Rooyen v The State 2002 (5) SA 246 (CC)


Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

European Communities Act, 1972

Income Tax Act 58 of 1962

Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

Labour Relations Amendment Act 6 of 2014

Magistrates Act 90 of 1993

National Economic, Development and Labour Council Act 35 of 1994

Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act 4 of 2002

Government publications

GN 1774 in GG 29445 of 1 December 2006

GN 327 in GG 38568 of 17 March 2016

International Instruments

European Union Directive on Part-time Work, 1997

Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union, 2007

Internet sources

Wagner 2014

Wagner L 2014 Magistrates face rap for instigating court strike [date of use 09 December 2014]

Hartley 2014

Hartley W 2014 Delays in cases against magistrates bothers committee [date of use 14 July 2015]

Newspaper reports

Du Plessis C Beeld (29 October 2014)

Du Plessis “Parlement bekragtig ‘slaaplandros’ se skorsing” Beeld 29 October 2014



How to Cite

Diedericks, L. (2017). The Employment Status of Magistrates in South Africa and the Concept of Judicial Independence. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 20, 1–32.