DA wants to curb politicians’ influence in appointment of judges

2013-06-30 08:00

The official opposition wants to amend the Constitution to dilute the influence that politicians have on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

On Friday, a private member’s bill by DA member of Parliament Dene Smuts was gazetted.

If passed, it would mean that fewer politicians would be allowed on the body responsible for the appointment of judges in South Africa.

The bill also recommends that politicians who are members of the executive, like deputy ministers, be barred from representing the legislature on the JSC.

Smuts said her bill was motivated by the National Development Plan (NDP), which found there was a need for the commission’s composition to be reconsidered.

“The JSC’s role is expanding and consideration should be given to whether it is optimally structured to fulfil its responsibilities,” it says in the NDP.

Smuts’ bill recommends:

» Reducing the number of representatives of the National Assembly from six to four, of which two must be members of opposition parties;

» Specifying that members of the executive cannot represent the National Assembly;

» Reducing the number of representatives of the National Council of Provinces from four to two and adding a specification that one of them be a member of an opposition party; and

» Reducing the number of persons appointed by the president from four to two, and limiting their participation to the appointment of judges other than constitutional court justices, where the president does not have a choice of candidates.

As the commission makes decisions by a simple majority vote, the changes would, in effect, neutralise what critics refer to as a majority political voting block on the JSC.

Members of the legal profession have frequently criticised the JSC for perceptions that its decisions were a foregone, political conclusion, disguised as choices made for transformation purposes.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has defended the commission from such allegations and has pointed out that the appointment of judges in other constitutional democracies is a “politician’s work”.

But at the commonwealth lawyers conference earlier this year, Dr Karen Brewer, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, said the association had conducted research which showed that an ideal model for a judicial appointment body would include “no members of the executive or legislature whatsoever”.

It has also emerged that the commission will oppose a court action by the Helen Suzman Foundation over the significance the body attaches to transformation.

This week, it filed its notice of intention to oppose the foundation’s application, which is arguing that the commission has a “legally flawed” understanding of how to effect transformation in the judiciary.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.