/ 5 August 2011

Chief justice appointment to be delayed

Chief Justice Appointment To Be Delayed

President Jacob Zuma said he will delay the appointment of a new chief justice as “it was a crucial decision impacting on the lives of South Africans”.

Zuma was addressing high-level media owners at a summit in Irene, Pretoria, on Friday morning.

He explained that delaying the appointment of the new chief justice would allow him to “give greater effect to the provisions of section 174(3) of the Constitution”. He would also need more time for “meaningful consultation with leaders of political parties and the Judicial Service Commission”.

Chief Justice Sandile Ncgobo steps down on the August 14 when his 12-year term as a constitutional court judge expires.

The presidency had previously said a new chief justice would be appointed by August 15.

Zuma assured South Africans that the delay “would not adversely affect the actions of the judiciary”.

Zuma slammed the media for “misrepresenting” his decision to extend Ngcobo’s term, which last week was found to be unconstitutional.

The media made out that a “crime had been committed” and the constitution “undermined” when he enacted Section 8(a) of the Judges Remuneration Act of 2001 to extend Ngcobo’s term.

Zuma defended his decision by arguing that he had granted the extension in terms of an existing law that was “passed by Parliament, unanimously, 10 years ago”.

Zuma finally broke the government’s silence on the Public Protector’s report into the controversial police leases that were found to be improper and invalid.

He welcomed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings and said he had written today to Max Sisulu, the Speaker of Parliament to outline his response.

Madonsela’s report showed the actions of Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele amounted to maladministration when the department of public works awarded businessman Roux Shabangu leases to house the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Sanlam-Middestad building in Pretoria and the Transnet Towers in Durban.

He used the opportunity to promise South Africans that the government was taking corruption seriously and was “making steady progress in taking forward this fight”. Zuma said the Special Investigations Unit was investigating problems with the awarding of government tenders to the value of R10-billion and tender conflicts of interest worth R5-billion. “The SIU was also working closely to investigate procurement irregularities in 33 police stations worth R330-million”.

Zuma emphasised that the government did respect media freedom saying “media, government and society had a responsibility to strive to develop free and independent media”, adding that “diversity and transformation” in the media also needed to be promoted.