Judicial strife: What Mogoeng, Zuma, Malema and the JSC tell us about the state of justice
The last couple of weeks have seen the judiciary in the wars.
With the continuing saga around errant Cape Judge President John Hlophe in the background, and former president Jacob Zuma’s assault on the courts continuing unabated, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) sat this week to consider various vacancies on the bench.
But the sitting, led by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, gave a worrying insight into how the country’s judges are selected. Mogoeng – whose Nkandla judgment in 2016 increasingly seems to be an outlier – threw himself into the political arena, first by ostensibly attacking his colleagues of the Appellate Division in Bloemfontein, and then appearing to accuse Pravin Gordhan of impropriety. This was, of course, seized on by Julius Malema, who sits on the JSC by dint of his position as a Member of Parliament. The EFF leader never misses an opportunity to grandstand, and this week’s JSC proceedings were no different. For the JSC, usually singularly focused on judicial matters at hand, politics became the central issue.
And when judges were eventually nominated and forwarded to the president for assent, the omissions were glaring. Some of South Africa’s most brilliant legal minds were rejected, while judges who presided over controversial political cases were also left in the cold – including judges who found against Malema and his party.
There is a campaign underway to discredit the judiciary and undermine judges. It is clearly being led by Zuma, who has made the most egregious statements about the country’s highest court, and abetted by Malema, who has made various allegations about judges without producing any evidence. These developments are a cause for concern – because, without legitimacy, the courts have nothing to ground itself in.
In this week’s Friday Briefing, News24’s specialist legal reporter Karyn Maughan considers events at the JSC, and locates it in the bigger picture and unfolding events around the judiciary. News24’s James de Villiers speaks to Casac’s Lawson Naidoo about the body’s request to Parliament to remove Malema from the JSC, and Limpopo University law professor Omphemetse Sibanda writes that it is time the office of the chief justice considers an inquiry to protect the image of the judiciary.
Pieter du Toit
Assistant Editor: In-depth news.
In circumstances where judges have found themselves personally targeted by the often very powerful people they rule against, the JSC has done little to nothing to publicly support or protect them from spurious and unsubstantiated attacks, writes Karyn Maughan.
News24’s James de Villiers speaks to Lawson Naidoo, of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, on why the body has asked Parliament to remove EFF leader Julius Malema from the JSC, the state of the judiciary, and what should be done to improve it.
The integrity, legitimacy, credibility and public confidence in the courts are dented almost daily. It is time for the chief justice to do something to redeem the image of the country’s judiciary, writes Omphemetse Sibanda.
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