Ngcobo 'mindful of challenges'
Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma on Thursday named Sandile Ngcobo as South Africa's new chief justice.
"It is my pleasure to announce the appointment of Justice Sandile Ngcobo as the Chief Justice designate... His record in promoting and protecting human rights is well known and is respected," Zuma told the media at the Presidential guest house in Pretoria.
"It is this track record that made us see in him a South African who will protect that which we hold very dear, the Constitution of the Republic and the rights of our people," Zuma said.
Zuma added that he was confident Ngcobo will be supported by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Ngcobo takes over from Pius Langa who retires this month.
"As we bid farewell to Chief Justice Langa, we will do so with our deepest gratitude for his selfless dedication in creating a South Africa that has at its core the observance of human rights and the rule of law," Zuma said bidding Langa and all the departing Constitutional Court justices a "fond and patriotic farewell".
Accompanying Ngcobo at the guest house was his wife, daughter, two sons and grandson.
Taking the podium, he said he was "humbled" by the appointment and expressed his deepest appreciation for the honour of stepping into the seat of the highest judge in the land.
"I'm mindful of the enormous task ahead... I'm mindful of the challenges facing the judiciary," he said adding however that he was also mindful of the support he will be receiving to address the challenges.
"I'm a judge, therefore I cannot make any promises but I can give my commitment... to uphold the oath of office that I took 13 years ago... to uphold and protect the Constitution... to administer justice to all persons without fear, favour or prejudice in accordance with the Constitution and the law," Ngcobo continued.
During a brief question and answer session, Zuma said the process to appoint the remaining judges to the Constitutional Court was underway and it was now up to him to choose four names from a shortlist handed to him by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)
Consulting political parties
Zuma said the law required that the president consults political parties on the selections and that was where the process was at.
"I cannot drop even an iota of what is happening there," Zuma said.
The DA, Cope, the IFP and the ID accused Zuma of failing to consult properly ahead of his nomination of Ngcobo.
The opposition urged Zuma to restart the entire process saying they would prefer current Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for the post.
Zuma wrote a formal letter to the parties saying that Ngcobo remained his preferred candidate, though he had not "taken a final decision on whom to appoint".
He urged them to comment on his nomination and put forward their case for Moseneke.
But the parties remained unmoved. They said his remarks had side-stepped debate on the real issues at stake.
The opposition said Moseneke was the best qualified person for the post because he had been working with Langa for the past four years.