Two judges off Constitutional Court shortlist

Only four judges remain in the race to replace retiring Constitutional Court Judge Tholakele Madala after Chief Justice Pius Langa on Monday afternoon unexpectedly announced that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) would not be interviewing two judges who were on the original shortlist.

The withdrawal now paves the way for any of the other candidates interviewed on Monday—judges Edwin Cameron, Shenaz Meer and Nigel Willis—to fill Madala’s shoes.

Judge Frans Kgomo, who is also on the shortlist, is only due to be interviewed on Tuesday morning.

Langa did not give any reasons but dryly announced that judges Franklin Kroon and Chris Jafta, who have both had acting stints on the benches of the highest court in the land, would not be standing for the vacant position.

The judges were acting at the Constitutional Court court during the time when the alleged approach was made by Cape Judge President John Hlophe to influence improperly two judges of the court to rule in favour of African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma.

In an affidavit filed launched with the JSC, Hlophe admits, after laying a counter-complaint of his own, that he met Jafta and Judge Bess Nkabinde, but he denies trying to influence the pair improperly.

JSC spokesperson advocate Moerane Marumo earlier confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that Kroon and Jafta had withdrawn their application but would not elaborate on the reasons.

“I am not at liberty to say why,” he said.

However, a high court judge, who requested anonymity, told the M&G that the two judges were requested by the JSC to step down as it felt that it would be inappropriate for them to stand while the Hlophe matter was still unresolved.

Hlophe was recently granted a declaratory order by the Johannesburg High Court stating that the manner in which the complaint against him was handled infringed on his constitutional rights. The judges of the Constitutional Court have appealed against this judgment.

It is believed that the pending appeal effectively leaves both judges as complainants against Hlophe and would have placed the spotlight firmly on their role in the Hlophe matter during the hearings taking place this week.

The Constitutional Court judges subsequently laid a complaint with the JSC, which the M&G has learnt will form part of discussions this week.

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Enver Surty, who took his seat on the JSC on Monday morning in his new role as a Cabinet minister, told the media in the morning that the Hlophe matter had not yet been up for discussion.

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