Presidency defends Mogoeng nomination

2011-08-17 15:59

President Jacob Zuma’s office has come out in defence of his nomination of Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng for chief justice.

Zuma announced yesterday that he had nominated the Constitutional Court judge to replace retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo as head of the land’s highest court. Ngcobo retired on Sunday after he withdrew his acceptance of an offer to extend his term, shortly before a Constitutional Court ruling was made that the law used to do so was unconstitutional.

Mogoeng’s nomination has come under fire from the legal fraternity and commentators.The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) has already indicated its dissatisfaction with Zuma’s nomination.

Nadel spokesperson Nokukhanya Jele said the organisation was looking forward to the announcement by the Judicial Services Commission of the process whereby additional candidates would be nominated.

“Nadel hopes by the end of this process the JSC will present the president with a rich list of some of the most qualified and suitable candidates in order for the president to choose the candidate most suited to take on the considerable responsibilities of the office of chief justice,” Jele said.

Some commentators have pointed to the fact that fewer of Mogoeng’s judgments have been reported and the paucity of his experience on Constitutional matters. Some have suggested that Mogoeng – who became a judge of the North West division of the high court in 1997 before he became the division’s judge president in 2002 – is a relatively junior judge.However, Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said Mogoeng was the third most senior Constitutional Court judge after Justice Johan Froneman and Justice Edwin Cameron in terms of judicial experience. Froneman was appointed to the bench in 1994, while Cameron was appointed in 1995.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who has been overlooked twice for promotion to the court’s highest post by the Zuma administration, was appointed in 2001 by former president Thabo Mbeki after serving in the high court for a few days.

Maharaj said the debate about the next chief justice should not disregard considerations concerning “suitability and experience”.

“The Presidency reiterates its respect and high regard for the Judiciary and for the Constitutional Court as an arbiter in disputes in our country.

“The debate on the appointment of the new chief justice should not impugn the dignity of the judiciary and the highest court in the land,” Maharaj said.

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