Ngcobo’s new term welcomed

2011-06-04 19:24

The extension of Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term in office for another five years has been welcomed as a move to continue the work started to cement the independence of the judiciary.

President Jacob Zuma made the announcement on Friday.

Zuma was criticised in 2009 for not consulting with opposition parties before his decision to appoint Ngcobo as head of the judiciary.

However, law experts this week praised Ngcobo’s 18 months term, saying he has shown he is above reproach, pioritising efforts to further the independence of the judiciary.

“He is absolutely and completely the right person for the job. He is committed to the law in all his judgements, comes with a wealth of experience and commands respect across all sectors,” legal expert Kevin Malunga said.

He added that Ngcobo has been instrumental in creating the new office of the chief justice. He is also playing a significant role in institutional reforms such as creating an independent body to manage the administrative functions of courts.

Ngcobo has held office as a judge and Constitutional Court judge for 15 years and three months. Before 2001 a Constitutional Court judge could only hold office for a non-renewable term of 12 years.

This has led Zuma to rely on the Judges Renumeration and Conditions of Employment Act, which gives him the power to extend the term of office of a chief justice.

Constitutional expert Pierre de Vos also welcomed Zuma’s announcement, but has questions whether this legislation is appropriate.

“Section 8 (of the Act) is problematic. It is not about the candidate. Chief Justice Ngcobo is a man of integrity. But it is not in the interest of the judiciary that Parliament gave these powers to a president to determine the term of office of the chief justice,” De Vos said.

He said it paves the way for suspicious individuals to speculate whether a chief justice is making a ruling in favour of the executive only to ensure his term in office.

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