News24

Zuma sticks with Ngcobo

2009-08-26 21:04

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma promised on Wednesday to consider the opposition's objections to the appointment of Judge Sandile Ngcobo as chief justice, but shrugged off criticism that his office had botched the nomination process.

Responding to a question in the National Assembly, Zuma said Ngcobo remained his "preferred candidate" to succeed outgoing Chief Justice Pius Langa.

"In making a final decision I will of course take into account the views of the JSC and the leaders of parties regarding whether Justice Ngcobo is fit and proper for the position," Zuma said.

He reiterated that he had not "appointed" Ngcobo as he stated on August 6 when he made the nomination public, but that it had been a slip of the tongue.

Parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance, Athol Trollip, said Zuma's explanation that he misspoke and that it was unintentional that a letter asking the opposition for input only arrived the following day was "acceptable".

Constitutional requirement

But he added that the three-day delay had undermined the constitutional requirement for consultation with the opposition leaders, offended their parties and severely embarrassed the presidency.

Trollip wanted to know whether Zuma had identified the member of his staff who had failed to ensure the letter arrived on time and would act against him or her.

The president said there was no need for an inquiry, and there had been no need for him to wait for a confirmation of receipt from the opposition before announcing the nomination.

"I don't see a reason why we must now conduct an inquiry over a matter of three days.

"Communication that is sent - it depends how it goes. When we grew up post was written by hand. Once you write a letter you don't know when it is going to arrive there.

"Once you have written the letter and it has been posted, you have written a letter."

Opposition want Moseneke

The DA, Cope, IFP and Independent Democrats have urged Zuma to restart the process and rather nominate current Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

They argue he was sidelined because he angered the ANC by stating, before the ruling party's Polokwane national conference - where Zuma won control of the ANC - that the future of the country did not lie with delegates, but with the electorate.

Zuma on Wednesday refused to respond to a supplementary question about speculation that he had chosen Ngcobo - who only has two years left before retirement - to keep the seat warm for embattled Western Cape Chief Justice John Hlophe.

"I don't know where that comes from. I don't respond to speculation in the media - they speculate over everything under the sun."
Hlophe, who has been fighting potential impeachment for allegedly trying to intervene on Zuma's behalf during his now abandoned corruption case, has been nominated for a seat on the Constitutional Court in October.
 

SAPA