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Heavy bargaining behind judges’ selection

Serious backroom horse-trading lay behind the Judicial Service Commission’s appointment to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) of South Gauteng High Court judge Frans Malan, the Mail & Guardian has learnt.

SCA president Lex Mpati, the M&G was reliably informed, had to agree not to oppose the appointment of former acting Northern Cape judge president Ronnie Bosielo in order to appoint Malan, a badly needed expert in banking law.

A well-placed source told the M&G that Mpati had pleaded with some members of the JSC who were vehemently opposed to appointing another white male to the country’s second court.

Mpati, the source said, had to agree not to object to Bosielo in exchange for the appointment of Malan.

”Malan is the expert on banking law. Nobody can match him, certainly nobody in the SCA,” said the source.

Selecting judges for the court, added the source, ”was much more than looking at candidates’ political credentials or colour”.

The presidency will shortly announce the appointment of the two SCA judges, along with appointments to various other courts throughout the country, including Gauteng, which has six vacancies.

JSC secretary Vuyelwa Masangwana confirmed that President Jacob Zuma had sent correspondence to the JSC about the appointments. Masangwana said the list would be released to the media at a later stage.

The SCA originally had three vacancies and the JSC interviewed acting SCA judges Ben Griesel and Eric Leach alongside Bosielo and Malan. The M&G understands that the JSC has opted not to make the third appointment.

Leach and Griesel have both confirmed that they have not been appointed.

”I can’t comment on that at all,” said Mpati, when asked for a response, adding that JSC discussions about candidates are confidential.

The M&G also understands that the JSC is currently dealing with a complaint against Griesel, lodged on July 14.
Griesel told the M&G this week that he had seen the complaint and responded to the JSC.

Earlier in the week the Cape Times newspaper reported that Zuma had appointed senior counsel and former Cape Bar Council chairperson Ashley Binns-Ward and former magistrate and senior prosecutor in the NPA’s asset forfeiture unit, Elizabeth Baartman, as high court judges.

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