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Smuts questions the meaning of 'merit'

Sapa

Former Judicial Service Commission official Izak Smuts has suggested the idea of merit when it comes to making judicial appointments is "offensive".

Izak Smuts:

"The term 'merit' is undefined, just as the term 'transformation' is undefined," Smuts, who resigned as a JSC commissioner last week amid disagreement about the transformation of the Bench, told the Sunday Times. "I think the term 'merit' is offensive," he said.

Smuts reportedly said the justice system needed people who embraced constitutional values.

"If you adopt the approach that transformation is simply a rote replacement of white male judges with black and female judges, but you don't examine whether those you appoint embrace the constitutional values ..., then on the race and gender model you may be transforming the judiciary, but in reality you may be posing far greater dangers to our new society."

Smuts, who was appointed to represent the advocates' profession in 2009, resigned amid controversy about a discussion document he wrote criticising the way in which the JSC overlooked white men for judicial appointments.

On Sunday, Smuts was quoted as saying the litmus test for judicial appointments was to ask: "Are you going to be a judge giving effect to our new constitutional dispensation, or are you going to be an obstacle?"

"Being black or female or white or green or whatever isn't the test," he told the newspaper.

Earlier in the week, JSC spokesperson Dumisa Ntsebeza told SAfm that Smuts had made the right decision by resigning if he did not agree with what the institution was doing.

"If you find the institution to which you belong is doing things in a way that is so untenable, then the best thing for you is to leave that institution". - Sapa

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