Yacoob asks Zuma to appoint women

2013-02-03 10:00

Former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yacoob is hopeful that President Jacob Zuma will reject an all-male list of candidates to replace him.

In an interview with City Press this week, Yacoob criticised Zuma for not “taking the importance of appointing women to court seriously enough”.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will in three weeks interview five candidates – including senior advocate Jeremy Gauntlett – all of whom are male.

But civil society pressure is mounting on Zuma to reject the list the JSC eventually sends him in order for suitable female candidates to be found.

“The president has the power, in terms of the Constitution, to ask for additional names.

“Whatever the JSC does, I would hope the president would say to the JSC: ‘I want more names, and I want women’s names. Go find them’,” said Yacoob.

His sentiments were echoed by his former colleague, Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, who said “the situation is dire. It calls for drastic measures”.

There are currently only two female judges on the bench of the Constitutional Court, while the Constitution requires the judiciary to “reflect broadly the racial

and gender composition of South Africa”.

Last year, Zuma’s decision to appoint North Gauteng High Court Judge Ray Zondo over Appeals Court Judge Mandisa Maya raised eyebrows because of the gender imbalance on the bench.

Yacoob said he had been surprised by the decision.

“I have nothing against Ray

Zondo at all. I think he’ll be a worthy colleague, but my own sense is that the president is not taking the importance of appointing women to (the Constitutional Court) seriously enough. That’s the only inference I can draw (from the non-appointment of Maya).”

City Press understands Maya did not make herself available because she was overlooked for appointment last year.

She was persuaded to make herself available for appointment only after intense lobbying by the Women’s Legal Centre, the local chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and the SA Women Lawyers Association.

The situation could also be problematic because of the inclusion of Gauntlett, a highly regarded senior counsel, on the list of candidates to be interviewed for the Constitutional Court.

Last year, Gauntlett’s non-appointment to the Western Cape bench after the JSC’s October round of interviews also sparked an outcry, with the JSC facing down a potential court challenge.

This time, the final decision on Gauntlett’s appointment rests with Zuma, not the JSC.

The Constitution requires the JSC to submit a shortlist of three more names than the number of Constitutional Court posts available to the president, from which he can choose. Other candidates are Judges Selby Baqwa, Lebotsang Bosielo, Brian Spilg and Advocate Mbuyiseli Madlanga.

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