President Cyril Ramaphosa invited the public to submit nominations to replace outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on 11 October.
Ramaphosa defended the Chief Justice selection process, saying he followed the same protocol when appointing the National Director of Public Prosecutions.
“I chose a panel, they interviewed candidates, they gave me names and I then appointed. The [candidate names] are given to me, rather than me to have chosen [someone] from nowhere as the next Chief Justice”.
Six candidates are now vying for the position:
- Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo,
- Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) president Mandisa Maya
- Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo
- Constitutional Court Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga
- Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, who faces a possible impeachment hearing
- Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane who faces perjury charges related to the Sassa crisis of 2017. She also faces impeachment by parliament
As reported by the Sunday Times, the strongest candidates are Maya, Mlambo, Zondo and Madlanga.
Maya is the first South African woman jurist who served as President of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa (SCA). She also wrote the first appeal court judgement in isiXhosa.
She was appointed as Deputy President of the SCA in 2015, and as President of the SCA in May 2017, after being appointed as acting president in 2016.
Mlambo, who was appointed as acting judge in the Labour Court in 1997, was a Legal Resource fellow under the supervision of advocate Thandi Orleyn in 1987. He has also served as the chairperson of Legal Aid South Africa since 2002.
Mlambo was appointed Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court in November 2012, at the time saying he would ensure “access to justice becomes what it should be”.
Zondo served part of his articles of clerkship under the late Mrs Victoria Mxenge in the latter’s law firm. He was appointed as a member of the Ministerial Task Team who produced the draft Labour Relations Bill for the post-apartheid South Africa in 1994.
He became Judge President of the Labour Court in 2000, where he served for 10 years before returning to the Pretoria High Court in 2010. Zondo also served as an acting judge of the Constitutional Court from 2011 to 2012.
He was appointed by President Ramaphosa in 2018 to head the inquiry into allegations of corruption during former President Zuma’s administration.
Mbuyiseli Madlanga was awarded the Juta Prize for being the best law student in 1981 and interned at the Washington DC office of Amnesty International after graduating.
He was appointed as a Judge of the Mthatha High Court and became South Africa’s youngest judge at the time, at the age of 34. Three years later, he was appointed as a Judge of Appeal in the Competition Appeal Court.
Then there’s Hlophe and Mkhwebane.
Hlophe accepted a nomination despite facing an impeachment hearing, related to a complaint by two Constitutional Court judges who claimed he tried to influence them by violating their oaths of office.
The matter related to the validity of searches during the arms deal investigation of Zuma and French arms company Thales’ local subsidiary, Thint, in 2008.
In a majority judgment, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) concluded that Hlophe was guilty of gross misconduct based on the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s findings.
Hlophe sought to interdict the impeachment process, which was being reviewed by the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, in an attempt to stop President Cyril Ramaphosa from suspending him.
In 2019, the Hawks launched an investigation into Mkhwebane, after a complaint was laid by Accountability Now. It also lodged a maladministration complaint. The case had been postponed several times.
Back in June 2021, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi was given until 29 September to decide if the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should go to trial.
Mkhwebane was given the extension to make additional representations to Batohi. The NPA then asked for another postponement to allow for Batohi to consider representations made to have the perjury charges withdrawn.
The case will continue on 2 December 2021.
Additional reporting by Molefe Seeletsa