Zuma picks Mogoeng as chief justice

President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday said Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was his preferred candidate for the new chief justice.

Zuma said in a statement that Mogoeng had demonstrated his “expertise and keen interest” in the transformation of the judiciary and played a leading role in programmes designed to promote court efficiency and transformation.

The statement said the position had become vacant at midnight on August 14 “as a result of the discharge from active service of former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo”.

In June, Zuma extended Ngcobo’s 12-year term under Section 8(a) of the Judge’s Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act, which was met by a Constitutional Court challenge by civil society organisations who argued that it was unconstitutional for the president to extend the chief justice’s term of office. Only an Act of Parliament may do so, they said.

According to the presidency’s statement Mogoeng was part of a five-member committee, led by former chief justice Pius Langa, which investigated allegations of racism and gender discrimination within the judiciary.

He also organised workshops for judges and magistrates on leadership and sensitivity training as well as workshops for magistrates on judgment writing and trial administration.

‘Missed opportunity’
Professor Steven Friedman, director of the Centre of the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday that the choice of Mogoeng was a “missed opportunity”.

“On the one hand you could have had continuity as well as the message that our government is comfortable with a chief justice with clear political independence in the appointment of Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke instead of Mogoeng.

“Additionally, it could have been a great coup for the empowerment of women if either Justice Sisi Khampepe or Bess Nkabinde were appointed,” said Friedman.

Nonetheless, Friedman said he had no reason to believe Mogoeng’s appointment was not in the best interests of the Constitution.

Mogoeng started his professional career as a supreme court (now high court) prosecutor in Mafikeng, holding this position between March 1986 and February 1990, when he resigned to undertake pupillage at the Johannesburg Bar. He then practised as an advocate in Johannesburg until the end of 1991. He then terminated his membership of the Johannesburg Bar and became a member of the Mafikeng Bar Association (now known as North West Bar Association) until May 1997.

While at the Mafikeng Bar, Mogoeng served as the deputy chairperson of the Bar Council and as the chairperson of the Bophuthatswana chapter of Lawyers for Human Rights. He was also a part-time senior lecturer in criminal law and criminal procedure at the University of the North West’s Mafikeng Campus from 1992 to 1993.

He was a member of the Industrial Court from 1989 until it ceased to exist.

In 1994 he served in the legal section of the Independent Electoral Commission in the North West province.

In June 1997 he was appointed a judge of the North West High Court in Mafikeng. He was appointed as a judge of the Labour Appeal Court in April 2000. In October 2002 he was appointed judge president of the North West High Court.

Mogoeng was born in Goo-Mokgatha, north-east of Zeerust on January 14 1961. He graduated from the University of Zululand with a B Juris in 1983. In 1985 he completed his LLB at the University of Natal in Durban. In 1989, he completed his studies at the University of South Africa, where he studied towards a LLM concentrating on labour law, the law of property, the law of insurance, the law of evidence and the law of criminal procedure.

Mogoeng is also an ordained pastor. Prior to joining the judiciary in 1997, Mogoeng also served as chairperson of the North West Parks Board and as chairperson of Golden Leopards Resorts. He was also a member of the Black Lawyers Association. He has since resigned from these positions.—Sapa

President Jacob Zuma has nominated Constitutional Court judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as the new Chief Justice. For more news on the controversy surrounding the appointment click here.

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