Legal arguments over top judges' terms

2011-07-18 12:12

Johannesburg - Some of South Africa's top lawyers were poised to argue whether it was constitutional for the president to extend senior judges' terms of office, in an urgent application to the Constitutional Court on Monday.

Advocates Kemp J Kemp, Vincent Maleka, Wim Trengove, Marumo Moerane, George Bizos and Anton Katz were among the eight parties to submit argument on three applications on the matter.

At issue is the purported extension by the president of the term of office of the chief justice for five years.

The Justice Alliance of SA, Freedom Under Law, The Centre for Applied Legal Studies and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution contend that cumulatively section 8(a) of the Judges Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act is inconsistent with the Constitution because section 176(1) of the Constitution provides that only an act of Parliament can extend the terms of office of any Constitutional Court judge.

Delegation of power

They believe the delegation of power by Parliament to the president is too wide and provides no guidelines for the exercise of this power.

They also believe Section 176(1) precluded the extension of the term of office of a particular Constitutional Court judge as distinct from extending the terms of all the judges on that court.

They also believe that the Constitution obliges them to consult the Judicial Services Commission and political parties before an extension.

President Jacob Zuma recently extended the term of office of Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo and his and the justice department's counsel are expected to argue that this was in line with the Constitution.

Ngcobo was not on the bench on Monday with his deputy Dikgang Moseneke presiding instead.

- SAPA

Read more on:    sandile ngcobo  |  judiciary
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