Zuma urged to withdraw Mogoeng

2011-09-06 00:00

DEMOCRATIC Alliance leader Helen Zille is to make a final attempt to persuade President Jacob Zuma to reconsider the appointment of Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as the new chief justice amid fears that a possible legal bid to prevent it would do the judiciary irreparable harm.

Fifteen other organisations, including bar councils and Cosatu, have said Mogoeng, the only candidate proposed by Zuma, is not a fit person to lead the Constitutional Court.

Some in the broad front of concerned organisations are weighing possible legal action after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) voted after interviewing Mogoeng to support his appointment and declined to consider any other nominations.

Constitutional expert Professor Pierre de Vos of the University of Cape Town warned that although the appointment could be fought on legal technicalities, it is not worth the risk to the judiciary.

“I fear that would politicise the whole judiciary and undermine it further. It could also impair the integrity of the bench,” De Vos said.

An expert from another interest group said that although the JSC consultation process does not happen in the way the Constitution demands, “too much damage has already been done”.

Zille will ask Zuma at a meeting in Pretoria this evening to withdraw Mogoeng’s nomination.

The Constitution stipulates that Zuma must consult leaders of opposition parties in Parliament over the appointment of the chief justice, and so far only the African Christian Democratic Party has inidicated that it supports Mogoeng’s appointment.

The DA believes he does not possess the “outstanding legal skills” necessary to lead the bench, Zille said.

The party also doubts his complete commitment to the Constitution and to the independence of the judiciary.

While the DA has not decided what steps it will take if Zuma ignores its request, Zille indicated the party could seek legal opinion on whether the JSC conducted proper consultation in terms of the Constitution.

“The only means to fight it is on procedural grounds — if the consultation was not conducted in good faith and with an open mind,” Zille said.

“Was it proper consultation to only nominate one candidate?” she added.

The organisation Freedom Under Law has exporessed its concern at the JSC’s refusal to consider other nomiations and argues that the procees of selecting the chief justice must be thorough.

Its director and spokesperson, Professor Hugh Corder, said, “Possible litigation is not ruled out, but it would be thoroughly and seriously weighed up because of its consequences”.

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