JSC denies sidelining judges

Labour Court Judge Raymond Zondo is tipped as a favourite for the vacant ­position in the Constitutional Court. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Labour Court Judge Raymond Zondo is tipped as a favourite for the vacant ­position in the Constitutional Court. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

The perception that a candidate has already been earmarked for the vacant judge’s post in the Constitutional Court appears to have led to concern that those shortlisted will not be given adequate time in their upcoming interviews with the Judicial Service Commission. Initially, each candidate was allegedly allocated only 15 minutes an interview.

But Sello Chiloane, a member of the secretariat for the JSC, said the four shortlisted candidates had all been allocated the full hour-long interview, as is normal for judges’ interviews.

Three Supreme Court of Appeal judges, Lebotsang Bosielo, Mandisa Maya and Robert Nugent, and Labour Court Judge Raymond Zondo have been shortlisted for the post.

Chiloane said confusion might have arisen from a “private email” sent to the four candidates forwarding the schedule to them and asking them to come as early as possible before their time slot.

“Nothing at all has changed,” Chiloane said.
“There has been only one schedule. But in our email to the candidates informing them of the date and the times we asked them to arrive as early as possible.

No way
“When one candidate’s interview comes to a close, we call the next one in. It is important for the interviews to run as efficiently as possible.”

Chiloane said there was “no way” a judge’s interview could run for 15 minutes or thereabouts, but they did on occasion finish before the hour was up. It was important that the next candidate was waiting outside and not still on their way from the airport when called in for an interview, he said.

The interviews will take place at the Southern Sun Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on June 9 and Chiloane said members of the public were welcome to attend.

Although Zondo is tipped as a firm favourite in some quarters, the shortage of female judges in the Constitutional Court is expected to be a consideration for the panel, which may count in Maya’s favour.

The JSC had to advertise the vacancy twice because of a lack of interest. Constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos said it was understandable that the commission found it difficult to attract people to the position. “The perception, real or not, that a candidate has already been earmarked for the post clearly made people reluctant to put themselves forward.”

Credible candidates
He said the appointment of a Constitutional Court judge required that four credible names had to be put forward for consideration.

“The reason they had to advertise twice was simply because there were not four credible candidates.”

De Vos said although Zondo appeared to have emerged as a favourite, the judge would not be his choice for the post because he believed him to be a “traditional, old-school lawyer and too conservative in his attitude to the Constitution and law”.

Given the constitutional demand and need to take into account race and gender, De Vos said he believed it would be better to appoint a woman to the position.

“Maya is a very impressive judge and, if it was up to me, it would be good to have another perspective that goes to gender and wider.”

Further Constitutional Court posts are expected to become vacant in the next few years.

Justice Zakeria Yacoob, who is acting deputy chief justice, will retire next year and Justice Thembile Skweyiya will retire in 2014.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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