JSC puts new judges' interviews on hold

The Judicial Service Commission has put all interviews for new judges on hold following what it said was a request by new Justice Minister Jeff Radebe for time to consider the independence and transformation of the judiciary.

A five-day programme of interviews in Cape Town was supposed to start with four candidates for the Supreme Court of Appeal on Monday afternoon.

Instead, the JSC remained locked in a meeting until 5.30pm.

Then, in a statement read out by spokesperson Marumo Moerane, it said it had decided “by a majority” to postpone all interviews.

The JSC said the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development requested a postponement to consider “the enhancement of the independence of the judiciary and the vital question of the transformation of the judiciary in terms of the Constitution with regard to race and gender representivity in order to facilitate meaningful input into the appointment process”.

Another reason, according to the statement, was that the JSC felt the eight new members appointed to its ranks by Parliament on May 26 were not yet familiar with the body’s procedures and had not had enough time to prepare for the meeting.

The JSC said it would use the remaining four days to deal with other items on its agenda, including the induction of new members and complaints against judges.

“The JSC intends to set down a date for the next sitting as soon as possible,” it said in the statement.

“The JSC expresses its regret and tenders its apology to all the candidates who made themselves available for interviews for judicial appointment.”

Radebe told journalists he was not unhappy about the issue of gender.

“But we need to have time to make an assessment of the constitutional imperatives of the racial profile and the gender representivity of the judiciary, so that by the time we do these interviews we have the whole context of what has been happening since 1994. So we’re going to be coming back to that issue when we do those interviews that are being deferred for a short period of time.”

He said the JSC hoped to reconvene before the end of July for the interviews.

He declined to say exactly what the split had been when the JSC voted to postpone the hearings, but said it had been carried by “a big majority”.

Asked if the move meant something was going to change in the way the JSC made appointments, he said: “I do not foresee any fundamental change ... because there are laid procedures in terms of how these things are being done [sic], but it’s just to enhance how we do many of these issues, to familiarise ourselves.”

He said the eight new MPs had to be “coming to speed with all the issues with their complexity in terms of moving forwards”.

Three of the four candidates for the SCA interviews—Gauteng Judge Ronnie Bosielo, Eastern Cape Judge Eric Leach and Bennie Griesel from the Western Cape Bench—had arrived at the Twelve Apostles hotel by lunchtime on Monday.

But instead of being called in one by one for the interviews, JSC chairperson and Chief Justice Pius Langa spoke to the three in a side room.

After the brief meeting, Griesel and Bosielo left and Leach began making arrangements to return home.

Interviews for posts on the Western Cape, Limpopo, North and South Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Free State Benches had been scheduled for the rest of the week.

Moerane told journalists the complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe was on the JSC agenda, and would be dealt with during the week.

On May 30 last year, the judges of the Constitutional Court lodged a complaint with the JSC alleging that Hlophe had tried to influence a judgement relating to President Jacob Zuma they were working on.

Last week, the South Gauteng High Court ruled that the JSC violated Hlophe’s rights by going ahead with the misconduct hearings against him while he was ill.

Judges George Maluleke and Moroa Tsoka called the proceedings of April 7 and 8 “unlawful”, set them aside and ordered that new hearings be arranged.
- Sapa

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