Legal groups take Zuma to court
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
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.