Supreme court of appeal president Mandisa Maya has accepted nomination to become the next deputy chief justice and will be interviewed for the position in June, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) said on Wednesday.
The JSC invited written public comment on Maya’s suitability for appointment by 26 May.
President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that he would nominate Maya for the position when he announced the appointment of Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in early March, and then proceeded to inform Zondo of this in a letter sent in early April.
The JSC had recommended that he appoint Maya as chief justice, after a week of fraught public interviews with her, Zondo and the two other shortlisted candidates for the post — the constitutional court’s Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga and the Gauteng judge president, Dunstan Mambo.
Maya would have been the country’s first female chief justice — a point that perhaps overshadowed other considerations in her interview with the commission — and will be the first deputy chief justice if her appointment proceeds.
Ramaphosa said he believed the JSC had exceeded its mandate in recommending a single candidate, rather than advising him on the suitability and relative strengths of each of the four who were interviewed.
Appointing Maya as Zondo’s deputy would make her the frontrunner to become the country’s next chief justice when he retires in August 2024, if the line of succession were followed as it was in Zondo’s case, but which the president is under no obligation to do.
Judges Matter welcomed Maya’s nomination.
“We are delighted to see a woman jurist of such experience and integrity being put forward by the president,” said convenor Alison Tilley.
Maya has been president of the SCA since 2017, after becoming the first black woman to join the appellate court in 2005, and is credited with improving its institutional culture.
The commission’s interview with Maya is scheduled for 20 June.