News24.com | ANALYSIS | South Africa is dilemma to nominate a recent chief justice. The stakes have by no scheme been so high

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. (Simon Sonnekus)

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. (Simon Sonnekus)

Hugh Corder examines what considerations desires to be taken when appointing a news Chief Justice when Mogoeng Mogoeng’s term ends in September.


By October, South Africa’s Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, will have carried out his 12-year term on the helm of the Constitutional Court. How will his successor be selected, and what qualities are wished by the holder of this high space of business?

To acknowledge to these questions we deserve to achieve the context. Right here is for the reason that nation’s judiciary has been increasingly more drawn into occasion political wrangling and contestation.

Any bear of constitutional democracy which permits judicial overview of the teach of public vitality thrusts the courts into the political limelight. Inevitably, acts and decisions of parliament, the president and cabinet will be challenged in opposition to the constitutional framework. The superior courts of the nation present the forum at some level of which this performs out.

If there just isn’t any longer any rule of law, brute pressure, random acts of violence and current anarchy turn out to be the avenues for settling ratings. In South Africa, the choice by no solution to repeat the devastating legacies of apartheid resulted in “the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law” being enshrined as indispensable values, justiciable and enforceable by the courts.

This has inevitably raised the political profile of the judges, especially their leaders, provided that they effectively have the final roar on what the words within the constitution mean.

The judicial route of is thus vastly contested. This locations an exaggerated burden on the courts to behave with most independence and impartiality. With out such qualities, the judiciary runs the threat of losing its legitimacy amongst the general public, ultimately its surest bear of security from interference.

Out of sync

The teach of constitutional authority in South Africa is constrained by the checks and balances inherent within the doctrine of the separation of powers. It requires every department of authorities (parliament, the cupboard and the courts) to level to mutual appreciate to the others.

If one department of authorities fails in its regulatory role, an imbalance is created. In turn this means that other branches are self-discipline to unjustified stress.

This came about in South Africa between Could perchance moreover 2009 to February 2018, when the regime of worn President Jacob Zuma obviously and corruptly abused its constitutional authority. Parliament failed dismally to fulfil its constitutional responsibility to preserve the manager responsible.

Which capacity that, these who wished to misfortune such abuse of vitality and to uphold the constitution, approached the courts. This increasing resort to the courts came to be identified as “lawfare”. The more continuously the courts found in opposition to actions and decisions of the authorities, the more virulently the political leadership of the governing African Nationwide Congress criticised the judges.

The stage of such lawfare has subsided since President Cyril Ramaphosa came to vitality in February 2018 , with one exception. Those whose abuse of vitality has been exposed by scheme of the Zondo Fee into train gather or by scheme of the investigative media have vilified the courts on the total in public, or centered particular judges for frightening assault.
Right here is the context at some level of which a recent Chief Justice will be appointed in South Africa later this year.

What ought to be taken into myth

Formally, the constitution is certain: part 174 (3) provides that

The President as head of the national executive, after consulting the [Judicial Service Commission] and the leaders of occasions represented within the Nationwide Assembly, appoints the Chief Justice.

This scheme that the president must act in consultation with his cabinet, and after consultation with the Judicial Provider Fee and other political leaders (consultation is required but the advice given needn’t be adopted).

Given the extremely contested nature of the judicial route of, I would argue that the next criteria ought to be uppermost in Ramaphosa’s thoughts when deciding on the next chief justice:

  • Strong credentials as an psychological chief on the Bench, enjoying the glory of their peers within the superior courts. The Chief Justice desires so that you would perchance well be assured that, having taken a stance on behalf of the judiciary as a entire, the judges will enhance him or her;

  • A favorable proponent of the transformative nature of your entire constitutional framework, with a jurisprudential be aware tell to assist up this kind of stance. In other words, that a gather has given judgments within the past that level to their knowing of – and commitment to – transformation to secure social justice. The constitution requires this;

  • Proven capacity to manual the judiciary as a entire. Precisely because of they ought to be appointed for their independence of thoughts, amongst other qualities, judges need in particular nuanced and skillful leadership to bear obvious they remain dedicated to the total success of the constitutional venture. An engaged and luminous chief will bear certain this;

  • An spectacular tell as a manager, preferably inside of the administration of justice. The Office of the Chief Justice has been a department of train for various years. This scheme that the incumbent must also give operational and administrative steering to your entire administration of justice. At the identical time, the Chief Justice must preserve his or her judicial profile by presiding over matters within the apex court docket;

  • Manifest capacity to utilize credibly with the long-established public, reassuring it of the ravishing-minded, principled, daring, and incorruptible nature of these appointed as judges, and of the superior court docket system as a entire.

Independence is key

Indignant controversies were sparked by the failure of the hot Chief Justice Mogoeng to separate his spiritual views from his public space of business.

His successor must tread fastidiously when tempted to enter the broader political terrain. Right here’s a key quality. Legitimacy (within the sense of public belief and self assurance) is the final guarantor of judicial independence. With out it the courts are at threat of occasion political abuse and undermining. The judiciary desires a real, principled, express and daring person to manual it.

These are high stakes indeed. The appointment of the next Chief Justice is a subject which ought to misfortune all South African and, I would argue, these who mark the rule of law all the scheme by scheme of the continent and beyond.The Conversation

– Hugh Corder, Professor of Public Regulation, College of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation beneath a Ingenious Commons license. Be taught the real article.

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