Expert calls for urgency in appointing new Chief Justice

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Research and advocacy officer for the organisation Judges Matter, Mbekezeli Benjamin, has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to act with urgency after the Judicial Service Commission’s interviews for the position of the country’s Chief Justice are completed.

Constitutional Court Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga will be the first candidate to be interviewed.

He is one of four candidates to be interviewed for the position this week.

The public interviews which will start on Tuesday will be conducted in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Benjamin says the appointment of a new Chief Justice is long overdue.

“So, the interviews will continue for the rest of this week and then the JSC will meet and decide on who they prefer as a candidate. They can choose one. They can choose all of them, but they’ll have to communicate this decision to the President and then the President will take the ultimate decision on who becomes Chief Justice. There are no strict timelines in terms of the law, but it has been well over 100 days since we last had a permanent Chief Justice, so the President needs to act quite quickly.”

Mbekezeli Benjamin and Senior Researcher from the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, Chris Oxtoby, discuss the four shortlisted candidates: 

Composition of the JSC 

The JSC consists of 23 members. They include the Chief Justice who presides over JSC meetings, the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, one Judge President designated by the Judges President and the Cabinet minister responsible for the administration of Justice.

There are also two practicing advocates and two practicing attorneys nominated from within their professional bodies and appointed by the president.

One teacher of law designated by teachers of law at South African Universities is also part of the JSC.

There are six designated members of the National Assembly. Three of them must be from opposition parties.

Four permanent delegates from the National Council of provinces (NCOP) supported by at least six provinces are also included.

The JSC composition also includes four persons designated by the President after consultation with political parties in the National Assembly.

University of Cape Town Associate Professor in Public Law Richard Calland outlines the process in choosing the next Chief Justice: 

-Additional reporting by Mercedes Besent