Legal groups take Zuma to court

2011-06-15 10:57

Johannesburg - Two legal groups launched a court application on Wednesday to challenge the legality of President Jacob Zuma's decision to request that the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court stays on beyond his tenure.

"This infringes upon the principle of the separation of powers, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary that are the very cornerstones of our constitutional architecture," said Sipho Pityana, chairman for the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (CASAC) - which is taking the court action alongside the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University.

"If a Chief Justice is unilaterally appointed by the head of the executive there will inevitably be a suspicion or perception that he or she is beholden to the person that has the power to appoint."

CASAC and CALS are seeking a hearing in the High Court in Pretoria on July 19.

This came after Zuma announced on June 3 that he had decided to extend Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo's office term.

His current terms expires on August 15 after a 12-year stint as a Constitutional Court judge.

"However President Zuma announced on 3 June 2011 that he had decided to extend the term of the Chief Justice for a period of five years, from 16 August 2011 to 15 August 2016.

"The extension was done in terms of section 8(a) of the Judges Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act, 2001. In this statement from the Presidency it was noted that the President had merely informed the political parties as well as the Judicial Services Committee of his decision; it did not claim that he had consulted them," CASAC said in a statement announcing the court action.

The Constitution says that a Constitutional Court judge may hold office for 12 years or until he or she is 70-years-old, whichever comes first, "except where an Act of Parliament extends the term of office of a Constitutional Court judge".

The two legal groups are arguing that in this case, the President extended the term, and not Parliament.


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Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  sandile ngcobo  |  johannesburg  |  judiciary
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