Mogoeng: the JSC’s biggest fan

2013-07-16 10:00

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng may very well be among the last of the faithful when it comes to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

This much was clear from a speech he gave in Cape Town last Saturday, which contained everything South Africans have come to expect from a political diatribe.

The strident speech, a style which is fast becoming Mogoeng’s bread and butter when it comes to public appearances, was delivered at the annual general meeting of Advocates for Transformation.

It contained 16 references to unnamed “personalities and NGOs” involved in an “illegitimate neopolitical campaign to have certain people appointed” to the Bench. These unnamed forces of darkness (or is that whiteness?), he says, are dead set on the “protection of white male dominance in the (legal) professions and the Bench, and the equation of the appointment of black and women practitioners to the institutionalisation of mediocrity”.

Heavy stuff indeed.

The chief justice appears to lump almost every single criticism and question asked of the JSC over the past two years into a basket that to him is evidence of this shadowy campaign.

This raises an interesting question: does Mogoeng include Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, the National Planning Commission and President Jacob Zuma’s entire Cabinet in the category of people “clutching at straws to discredit the JSC”?

Despite the recent alliance chill towards the National Development Plan (NDP), the document remains a policy adopted by Cabinet that raises pertinent questions about the functioning of the JSC. The plan notes that “judicial appointments that call the impartiality of selection processes into question must be addressed”.

According to the NDP, “further reforms include the composition of the JSC itself, which is argued to be too large to function effectively, and to be hamstrung by political interests”.

The plan notes that, while the “JSC published a broad list of criteria for judicial appointments in September 2010, they require further development and a clear understanding of their meaning and application”.

Was the chief justice in his speech referring to the Helen Suzman Foundation when he asked whether “personalities and NGOs who speak regularly and passionately about the perceived areas

of concern about the JSC processes and even litigate about them, have ever spoken with any, let alone equal, passion against the conservative, apartheid-style instruction-giving and briefing patterns”?

The foundation has taken the JSC to court to argue that transformation, as Mogoeng refers to the requirement that the judiciary “reflect broadly” the racial and gender composition of South Africa, take a back seat to the requirement that a judge be first and foremost an “appropriately qualified” person.

But the commission has indicated that it will oppose the case, which means that the outcome could just as well be a ruling that finds that the two are not binary requirements or even that “transformation” trumps qualification.

It’s difficult to understand why clarity from the country’s courts, the final guardians of the Constitution, would be so unclear on this question.

When Mogoeng refers to “people or organisations who are accusing the JSC of being controlled by politicians” and who “look like they want to control the JSC themselves”, is this an oblique reference to the DA’s Dene Smuts, whose Private Member’s Bill seeks to reduce the influence of politicians on the JSC?

Smuts’ constitutional amendment bill envisions culling six political representatives from the JSC, something she hopes will give effect to the NDP’s call for reducing the size of the JSC as well as addressing concerns about the impartiality of the JSC’s appointments.

The attainment of a judiciary that broadly reflects South Africa’s gender and racial composition is of fundamental importance, but so is the principle of judicial independence.

Perhaps the chairperson of the JSC should have greater regard for the chorus of voices asking questions about the way the JSC goes about doing its business, rather than dismiss them as a “well coordinated network of individuals and entities often pretending to be working in isolation from each other”.

This much was clear from a speech he gave in Cape Town last Saturday, which contained everything South Africans have come to expect from a political diatribe.

The strident speech, a style which is fast becoming Mogoeng’s bread and butter when it comes to public appearances, was delivered at the annual general meeting of the Advocates for Transformation.

It contained 16 references to unnamed “personalities and NGOs” involved in an “illegitimate neo-political campaign to have certain people appointed” to the Bench.

These unnamed forces of darkness (or is that whiteness?), he says, are dead set on the “protection of white male dominance in the (legal) professions and the Bench and the equation of the appointment of black and women practitioners to the institutionalisation of mediocrity”.

Heavy stuff, indeed.

The chief justice appears to lump almost every single criticism and question asked of the JSC over the past two years into a basket which forms part of this shadowy campaign.

This raises an interesting question.

Does Mogoeng include Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, the National Planning Commission and President Jacob Zuma’s entire Cabinet in the category of people “clutching at straws to discredit the JSC”?

Despite the recent Alliance chill towards the National Development Plan (NDP), the document remains a policy adopted by Cabinet which raises pertinent questions about the functioning of the JSC.

The plan notes that “challenges such as court administration inefficiencies that denude people of their right to access justice, and judicial

appointments that call the impartiality of selection processes into question must be addressed”.

According to the NDP, “further reforms include the composition of the JSC itself, which is argued to be too large to function effectively, and to be hamstrung by political interests”.

The plan notes that, while the “JSC published a broad list of criteria for judicial appointments in September 2010, they require further development and a clear understanding of their meaning and application”.

Was the chief justice in his speech referring to the Helen Suzman Foundation when he asked whether “personalities and NGOs who speak regularly and passionately about the perceived areas of concern about the JSC processes and even litigate about them, have ever spoken with any, let alone equal, passion against the conservative apartheid-style instruction-giving and briefing patterns”?

The foundation has taken the JSC to court to argue that transformation, as Mogoeng refers to the requirement that the judiciary “reflect broadly” the racial and gender composition of South Africa, take a back seat to the requirement that a judge be first and foremost an “appropriately qualified” person.

But the commission has indicated that it will oppose the case, which means that the outcome could just as well be a ruling which finds that the two are not binary requirements or even that “transformation” trumps qualification.

It’s difficult to understand why clarity from the country’s courts, the final guardians of the Constitution, would be so terrible on this question.

When Mogoeng refers to “people or organisations who are accusing the JSC of being controlled by politicians” and who “look like they want to control the JSC themselves”, is this an oblique reference to the DA’s Dene Smuts, whose private member’s bill seeks to reduce the influence of politicians on the JSC?

Smuts’s constitutional amendment bill envisions culling six political representatives from the JSC, something she hopes will give effect to the NDP’s call for reducing the size of the JSC as well as addressing concerns about the impartiality of the JSC’s appointments.

The attainment of a judiciary which broadly reflects South Africa’s gender and racial composition is of fundamental importance, but so is the principle of judicial independence.

Perhaps the chairperson of the JSC should have greater regard to the chorus of voices asking questions about the way the JSC does business, rather than dismissing them as a “well co-ordinated network of individuals and entities often pretending to be working in isolation from each other”.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.