JSC recommends Zondo, Maya for new judicial posts

Justice Mandisa Maya will be the first woman president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the second highest court in South Africa.. (Gallo)

Justice Mandisa Maya will be the first woman president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the second highest court in South Africa.. (Gallo)

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) announced on Monday night that it would recommend to President Jacob Zuma that Justice Raymond Zondo is suitable to be deputy chief justice and that Justice Mandisa Maya is suitable to be president of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The decisions were expected — both were the only candidates nominated for the posts and there were no big upsets in their interviews.

Justice Maya will be the first woman president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the second highest court in South Africa.

In her interview she was again questioned about what could be done to ensure more women were appointed to the judiciary. She responded that this was a question she had been repeatedly asked by the JSC since her 2000 interview.
She had been back several times and was asked the same question each time. 17 years later, she was still being asked the question, said.

“It is very worrisome,” she said.

Justice Maya said she could write a book on the challenges she faced as a woman judge; from being sent on circuit duty to presiding over courts in far flung areas when she had a young family and being the first person on the bench to give birth.

The birth of her last born was induced to fit in around court duties, she said.

She said that in a recent hearing, a male counsel would not look at the women justices on the bench and only looked at the single male justice. She addressed it with the counsel at the end of the matter and he explained and apologised, she said. 

Justice Maya also spoke candidly about the divisions between judges in her court, saying it was an “open secret” that the Supreme Court of Appeal was “not the most collegial of courts”.

Maya said: “I’m sorry if I am hanging our dirty linen in public, but these things have to be said to be changed”.

“The SCA is a very hard working court, the challenge now is the relations (between justices),” she said.

She said that it was not until this year — after a diversity workshop — that black and white justices sat next to each other in the judges’ tea room.

When the workshop was first proposed it was supported by only two justices and she had to plead with her colleagues for it to go ahead. 

“We had it over two days and the experience was precious, it was cathartic. We were all able to look at each other and say what was bothering us about the court. After it, everyone was converted,” she said.

The lack of collegiality extended to judgment writing, with colleagues simply writing their own judgments insteading of discussing it with the justice who had been assigned to write.

But these problems were being addressed, she said.

Chief Justice Mogoeng said he was shocked at this report, asking why it had been allowed to go on for so long, with nothing being done. 

“At the Constitutional Court, we are a family there and we are not pretending,” said Mogoeng. 

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