Shambolic chief justice interviews face legal attack

Celani Sikhakhane

Following the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) announcement that it recommends Supreme Court of Appeal President Mandisa Maya be appointed as the next chief justice, the Helen Suzman Foundation has threatened legal action.

The foundation described the interviews as biased and said their legal team would plan court action if the interviews are not done afresh.

The commision started the four-person interview process last Tuesday.

On Saturday, the Commission spokesperson Advocate Dali Mpofu announced that Justice Maya was named as a preferred candidate by the selection committee.

Mpofu was heavily criticised for the way he and EFF leader Julius Malema questioned Gauteng Judge President Dustin Mlambo and Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo while soft-balling Justice Maya.

Without any proof, and against the interview process that required questions to be submitted in writing, Mpofu and Malema said there were “rumours” of sexual harrasment accusations against Mlambo.

After two hours of being forced to answer these vague allegations, which Mlambo said were clearly an attempt to invalidate his candidature, the JSC’s acting chair had the questions removed from the transcript.

But the damage was clearly done.

Malema and Mpofu’s unethical line of questioning was seen as a political theatre to settle scores particularly against Justice Raymond Zondo and Mlambo.

On Friday during a 12-hour interview with Justice Zondo, Malema and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola were in a screaming match with the EFF leader.

They accused the minister of unlawfully writing to Zondo suggesting he appoint Mlambo to act as a Constitutional Court judge, suggesting that the process was manipulated to boost his chances for the Chief Justice position.

Lamola accused Malema of telling a “blue lie” but later withdrew his statement.

The interview was seen as grounds on which to fight the State Capture battles by certain panelists, especially Malema, Mpofu and advocate Griffith Madonsela.

Now it is up to President Cyril Ramaphosa to appoint a suitable candidate as it is his prerogative.

He is not bound by the JSC recommendation but if he goes with another judge he will inevitably face accusations of playing politics and not acting in the country’s interests.