Mogoeng lashes claims of political interference in judiciary

2012-10-26 10:20

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has lashed out at claims of political interference in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), saying that “the involvement of politicians is necessary” in the appointment of judges.

Mogoeng was addressing a press conference called to announce the candidates that have been recommended by the commission for appointment as judges.

Mogoeng said it had become necessary for the commission to address criticism that candidates recommended by the commission were predetermined and that this perception led to a lack of suitable candidates making themselves available for appointment.

Mogoeng said that the JSC commissioner did not know why there was a shortage of candidates but said it could be that “the pastures are lush on the other side of the river Jordan”, a possible reference to lucrative private legal practise.

Mogoeng also addressed allegations of political interference in appointments, saying that critics making these claims should come out with “substantiated evidence” that could be dealt with.

He said that the drafters of the Constitution had “in their wisdom” decided on the current make-up of the JSC, and said that appointments of judges in countries such as Germany and France were purely political appointees.

“The involvement of politicians is necessary because they represent the people. In some democracies, judges are in fact elected in the same way as politicians.”

Mogoeng said that “candidates and those who support their candidacy would do well to remember that, like all others, they are candidates”.

“However highly skilled a candidate might be, as the Afrikaners would put it, ‘dit is nie ‘n uitgemaakte saak nie’ (it is not a foregone conclusion)”.

Mogoeng’s comments come in the wake of controversy surrounding the JSC’s decision not to recommend Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett SC for appointment to the bench of the Western Cape High Court.

At the press conference, the commission confirmed that Gauntlett had been passed over for appointment, despite a fifth additional spot that was filled in the Western Cape High Court.

This means the commission could again find itself in court, after lawyers acting for retired Deputy Judge President Louis Harms wrote to Mogoeng asking for reasons why Gauntlett was passed over.

It appears likely that Harms, who nominated Gauntlett for appointment, will take the matter to court for a review of the decision.

The Supreme Court of Appeal last month ruled that the JSC can be compelled to provide reasons to a candidate for its decisions.

Mogoeng said the commission had gone “out of our way” to comply with the order of the court.

He said that reasons would be provided to Harms if Gauntlett was comfortable with the commission doing so.

Mogoeng said that “no analyst, no pressure group, no organisation, no politician and no media group should labour under the impression that we are capable of being pressurised or intimidated into appointing their preferred candidate”.

Recommended for appointment by the commission were:

Eastern Cape High Court
» Advocate Murray Lowe SC
» Buyiswa Majiki

Electoral Court
» Judge Seun Moshidi
» Judge Willem Wepener

KwaZulu-Natal High Court

» Judge Achmat Jappie appointed as Deputy Judge President

North and South Gauteng (for three vacancies)
» Advocate David Fourie SC

Western Cape High Court

» Judith Cloete
» Mokgoatji Dolamo
» Babalwa Mantame
» Advocate Owen Rogers SC
» Advocate Ashton Schippers SC

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