Radebe defends Ngcobo's term extension

2011-06-07 13:10

Cape Town - Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Tuesday praised Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo for "doing a bloody good job" and said government would oppose an expected legal challenge to the extension of his term.

"We believe Wits [University of the Witwatersrand] is wrong in fact and in law and we will resist any legal challenge from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies," Radebe told a media briefing ahead of the justice budget vote in Parliament.

"We believe we are on solid legal ground.

"Judge Ngcobo, ever since 2009, has showed that the doubting Thomases were wrong. We believe he is the best chief justice around and he is doing a bloody good job."

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, which is based at the University of the Witwatersrand, says section 8(a) of the Judges’ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act is "unconstitutional and invalid".

The provision was used last week by President Jacob Zuma to reappoint Ngcobo for another five years but the centre claims it violates the constitutional guarantee of the independence of the judiciary.

It has signalled that it will challenge the president's decision and called on others to join.

The issue was raised by several speakers in the justice budget debate, just after the briefing.

Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts said she has for some time supported the extension of Ngcobo's term of office "because he will ensure the institutional independence and in time even the management of the courts".

Act of Parliament

But she added that section 176 (1) of the Constitution demands that it be done by an act of Parliament, advancing the same argument as the Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

"It is a pity that the Arthur Chaskalson Act has been used for this purpose and has now caused a challenge."

ANC MP John Jeffery disagreed, saying section 176 was satisfied because by using a provision of the Judges' Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act, passed in 2001, Zuma was acting in accordance with an act of Parliament.

He said he found it was strange that every speaker in the debate who raised the issue, had no problem with Ngcobo but wanted to challenge his position because they disagreed with the process followed.

"I don't know why we have to waste this money on litigation," he said.

"I don't know why we have to damage the image of the chief justice as person who was wrongly appointed. I hope that this matter does not become a matter that parties politic over and I hope that everybody will treat the chief justice with the respect he deserves."

Radebe reiterated in his response to the debate that "nothing has been done which is procedurally wrong".

At present section 176 limits the terms of Constitutional Court judges to a non-renewable term of between 12 and 15 years.

Jeffery suggested that the matter of their length of service should eventually be settled by the superior courts bill, which places the administration of courts under the chief justice.

In fact, an earlier version of the constitutional amendment bill controversially proposed permanently appointing judges to the Constitutional Court, but this has been removed from the latest version tabled in Parliament.

The provision was criticised for making it possible in theory to load the court with politically compliant judges.

The bill still proposes making the Constitutional Court to become the apex court in all matters, and not just constitutional cases.

Smuts has said this is problematic because the judges currently serving at the court were not appointed with this function in mind.

  • REALIST - 2011-06-07 13:19

    Whatever, of course they would say that...

      Mishka - 2011-06-07 13:26

      I am betting Realist, you did not understand one word of that, but your fingers felt compelled and took on a life of their very own?

      Blougroen - 2011-06-07 13:36

      If say Parliament is deemed to be the institution that must appoint the Chief Justice of the CC - will it require carrying of a two-thirds vote for the candidate proposed ?

      saabnut - 2011-06-07 13:48

      There is actually NOTHING to defend. Even if it is wrong, this lawless ANC circus does exactly what it wants anyway.

      paulf - 2011-06-07 14:03

      We honestly do not have a Constitution anymore. Thanks to our Corrupt President Zuma, actually I won't call him President as he is not worthy. The worst Leadership this country has ever had. All is being done on purpose and for a reason only the ANC can explain. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of but I am busy putting 2 and 2 together and don't think I am wrong.

  • Peacock - 2011-06-07 13:25

    Hey Comrade - come stay here with me, you will be safe and you can kill the investigation when they find out about the millions I have stolen

  • Smindlo - 2011-06-07 14:24

    this hadebe guy just does not get it, does he? this has nothing to do with Justice Ncobo's credentials. its a matter of principle, parliament responsibility cant be delegated to zuma. its unconstitutional

  • ZACommentator - 2011-06-07 14:28

    It is important that the constitution is adhered to and that due process is followed.

      Philip Kraft - 2011-06-07 14:42

      Agreed... yet Mr. John Jeffery had the following to say 'He said he found it was strange that every speaker in the debate who raised the issue, had no problem with Ngcobo but wanted to challenge his position because they disagreed with the process followed.' Because according to the ANC you only have to adhere to due process UNTIL it no longer suits you, thereafter you can do as you please, be baffled by the response and criticism and inevitably play the race card... Politics is actually easy...

  • matubeng - 2011-06-07 14:33

    The Centre for Applied Legal Studies must go on and test the validity of the appointment, it's in the best interest of public. John Jeffery is promoting what the ANC is doing in all public institutions, but encouraging to respect the encumbents of the public positions by doing things wrong. We cannot just support the appointment because we respect Chief Justice Ngcobo as a person, no. All our municipalities are in a mess because we fail to challenge the people they run for the mere fact of respecting them. No one is against the appointment of any person, only if the appointment of such a person is done correctly. It would be wrong if it has to be seen as if the President bend the laws just to extend Chief Justice Ngcobo's term, it has to be done right and seen as such.

      Rover_ZA - 2011-06-07 14:55

      Well said!

  • newinjozi - 2011-06-07 14:43

    When your kids ask why the hell they have to do comprehension, here's a classic examply of why. The challenge is not as to whether Ngcobo is doing a good job or not, its the clause that Pres Zuma used to grant the extension and also questions the independence of the judiciary if this clause can be used to extend judges. The office of the presidency was notified of this before they extended Ngcobo, that's baffling...

  • Ralph - 2011-06-07 14:43

    This is the same Chief Justice Ngcobo who realised in 1999, soon after his appointment, that ther is a huge backlog and reserved judgements in the judicial system. 11 years later he tells the law society that something needs to be done because it is worrying him. See this reference: If he needs another term fine but get something done.

      Achmed - 2011-06-07 14:51

      It will only get worse. The backlog is growing, more reserved judgements and a very lax administration where case files goes missing, court orders are not executed and general chaos. By the time this matter is heard by the ConCourt the 5 year term will have to be renewed again.

  • Badballie - 2011-06-07 15:04

    The president and the laws of this country are being questioned not the chief justice are being question. the ends do not justify the means and if the president has overstepped his rights he will be rapped on the knuckles by the honest people of this country. It is long overdue for the ANC to start acting like professionals and to start doing what they get paid to do, 17 years down the line "we are still learning " is not longer a valid excuse, any person in the private sector who tried to use that as a defense would very quickly find themselves in the unemployment line, what makes the ANC so special that they need to be treated differently from the rest of society, to my knowledge the only mitigating fact would be mental impairment......Are the ANC mentally impaired??

      aryantoo - 2011-06-07 16:42

      SouthAfrica must bee the only country in the world where criminals apoint judges

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