IFP, DA lament Ngcobo's resignation
Pretoria - Both the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday that Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo's resignation could have been averted.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced in Pretoria on Wednesday that Ngcobo withdrew his decision to accept the extension of his term of office and would step down on August 14.
IFP parliamentarian Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said: "The resignation of the chief justice is a tragedy which should have and could have been averted.
"I conveyed to the ANC that the manner with which the president sought to extend the term of office of the chief justice was unconstitutional."
The DA's Dene Smuts said that she had proposed a bill to avert a legal challenge to the extension of Ngcobo's office, but that this had been rejected.
Oriani-Ambrosini and Smuts praised Ngcobo's decision to step down.
"Minister Radebe has been unforgivably slow in acting on this matter. I have been prompting action since late last year to ensure the retention of the chief justice, who is doing such important work at this point," Smuts said.
"He is a true judicial leader, and the fact that he has withdrawn to protect the integrity of the bench further proves it."
Earlier this year, Radebe advised President Jacob Zuma that Ngcobo's seven-year term of office as a judge would end at midnight on August 14 this year, and he would have to leave his position.
His options were to extend Ngcobo's term, or appoint another chief justice.
Zuma wrote to Ngcobo and asked him to stay on for another five years. On June 2 Ngcobo agreed.
Zuma informed political parties and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which interviews judges for vacancies and then refers their candidate choices to Zuma for the final say.
This then brought about a legal challenge from several civil society groups.
Radebe said on Wednesday that Ngcobo "found it undesirable for a chief justice to be a party in litigation involving the question of whether or not he or she should continue to hold office, as this detracts from the integrity of the office of the chief justice and the esteem with which it is held".