Gauntlett culled from ConCourt short list

The list that will be presented to president Jacob Zuma includes high court judges Brian Spilg and Selby Baqwa, supreme court of appeal court judge Lebotsang Bosielo and advocate Mbuyiseli Madlanga.

This is the fifth time the commission has rejected Gauntlett for a position on one of the country's benches — he had last year failed in an attempt to get on to the Western Cape bench in his most recent previous interview. 

Gauntlett is widely considered one of the country's finest legal minds but his temperament has raised questions over whether he is suitable for the bench.

Gauntlett got a rough ride for comments he made about the commission to the Sunday Times newspaper last year after failing to make the shortlist for a place on the Western Cape bench.

The silk, who has been described as “acerbic” was appearing before the commission for the fifth time and advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza appeared to take exception to Gauntlett’s comments in the Sunday Times interview that the body had a “slate” of preferred choices.

Home affairs deputy-minister Fatima Chohan-Khota asked Gauntlett whether anything could be read into the timing of an opinion piece published in the Mail & Guardian last week about judicial limits. Gauntlett responded that the timing “was not strategic".

Gender issues raised
Gender representation on the judiciary, judicial temperament and the 17th Constitutional Amendment Bill recently signed into law by President Jacob Zuma rose during the Judicial Service Commision (JSC)’s interviews for the Constitutional Court position recently vacated by retiring judge Zak Yacoob on Friday in Johannesburg.

Mindful that Section 174(2) of the Constitution requires gender representation on the bench and that the shortlist of candidates consisted of five males – high court judges Selby Baqwa and Brian Spilg, supreme court of appeal judge Lebotsang Bosielo and two silks, advocates Madlanga and Jeremy Gauntlett — the commission appeared to be at pains to grapple with the issue.

A stock question for the commission’s advocate Izak Smuts was to enquire as to the candidates’ views on the matter. What became apparent is that the several potential female candidates had refused to avail themselves, placing the commission in a conundrum, for as Bosielo pointed out “the JSC does not manufacture candidates” – only interview those before it.

But it became apparent during the interviews that several potential female candidates had chosen not to throw their hats into the ring. Gauntlett recounted speaking to a “judge based in Bloemfontein” who had spoken to all the female judges based at the Supreme Court of Appeal there and all had, for one reason or another, apparently refused nomination.

Madlanga recounted having approached another potential candidate with a view to convincing her to avail herself, in which case he would have withdrawn his own candidacy – she had also refused for “personal reasons”.

Commissioner CP Fourie noted that restarting the process in an attempt to attract female candidates did not guarantee that a suitable female appointment would emerge from a new process. He underlined that the commission would be opening itself up to allegations of favouritism if it started inviting candidates. The 17th Constitutional Amendment Bill will, when it comes into effect, make the Constitutional Court South Africa’s apex court, extending its jurisdiction to all matters, not just constitutional ones – which candidates quizzed on it, thought was a good thing.

The bill will also ensure that the “judiciary is on charge of the administration of the judiciary", as Madlanga pointed out during his interview.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

Related stories

Constitutional Court ruling on restructuring dispute is good for employers

A judgment from the apex court empowers employers to change their workers’ contracts — without consultation

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years

The pandemic will change the electoral process

There’s a backlog of by-elections to get through before next year’s local government elections. Will voters go to the polls even though Covid protocols are in place?

Sticks and stones: Qwelane and the violence of words

Constitutional Court justice says homophobic article did not ignite fire of hate against the LGBTI community but added fuel to it

The Qwelane case: When human rights meet human rights

The Jon Qwelane case brings into focus the tension between hate speech and freedom of expression

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

‘Battle-tested’ vs ‘kind and fair’ — DA candidates’ last push...

John Steenhuisen and Mbali Ntuli both acknowledged the problems faced by the party over the past year, with each of them offering their own leadership vision.

A Landie icon is born

Replacing one of the most-loved cars in history, the new Defender pulls off the near impossible task of doing almost everything better

NSFW: The tricky business of OnlyFans

In an increasingly digital world, OnlyFans has given online creators a new way to make money on their own terms

Q&A Sessions: ‘Keeping quiet is not an option’ — Charlotte...

More than a decade after a brief stint on the opposition benches, Charlotte Lobe is helping to fly the South African flag as a senior public servant in the department of international relations and co-operation

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday