Vacant ConCourt recommendations wrapping up today
Eight candidates interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission are vying for the two positions on the Constitutional Court Bench.
Ali Gule , from Outa, joins other concerned citizens as they gather at the entrance to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg calling on South Africans to defend democracy, the constitution, the rule of law, and accountability for state capture and corruption, on Human Rights Day, 22 March 2021. Picture: Michel Bega
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will decide on Wednesday morning who to recommend to President Cyril Ramaphosa for the two vacant positions at the Constitutional Court.
Eight candidates are vying for the two positions on the Constitutional Court Bench.
On Tuesday, the JSC interviewed Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Mahube Molemela, who said she was ready to be part of the apex court.
Molemela headed the Free State High Court division from 2015 to 2018.
She then moved to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein. And now she is aiming for a position on the Constitutional Court Bench.
During her interview, some JSC members raised concerns about her “quick movements” in positions.
Molemela has only been at the SCA for three years. She told the JSC that three years at the SCA was “more than enough”.
She also told the commission that she didn’t have to serve at the SCA to be appointed to the Constitutional Court.
But Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who chaired the interviews, pressed her on the issue.
He said when Molemela was appointed judge president, there was excitement about her appointment, but now she wanted to leave the court.
“Why does it look like you can’t stay in one place, to influence that place significantly, before you can move on? Why do you appear to be moving so soon after elevation to a particular position?”
Molemela said when she was appointed to the position there were problems at the court, but they were voted best performing division soon after she had taken over.
“It was a well-run division,” she said.
“I hold the view that I had achieved my task,” Molemela said, adding that she had also empowered women there.
“My leaving that court did not leave a void. Immediately after my departure, two ladies continued acting as deputy judge presidents.”
Molemela then joined the SCA – a court that had problems with representation.
She said she was sure there would be applause if she joined the Constitutional Court because it would be a woman adding to the court.
The JSC also interviewed Judge Rammaka Steven Mathopo, who spoke about the “unfair treatment” of junior colleagues by the so-called “top six” at the SCA.
Mogoeng questioned Mathopo about the group, seemingly named after the ANC’s most senior national leaders.
It’s alleged that the SCA “top six” mistreats junior judges at the court.
“Yes, it is true. We had those problems, and we experienced those problems quite painfully,” Mathopo said.
“I witnessed, I heard [and] I experienced, and it was painful CJ (Chief Justice) when colleagues, especially junior colleagues, were subjected to unfair criticism, unfair differentiation [and] unfair treatment by the senior colleagues. That troubled me a lot.”
He claimed that some members of the “top six” were opposed to his appointment at the court but “unfortunately for them, this body (the JSC) saw it fit… and endorsed my appointment”.
Another judge who faced a grilling was Judge Dhaya Pillay, who is currently acting at the Constitutional Court.
She was asked about her relationship with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, to which she said she had known him for many years.
JSC commissioner Julius Malema accused her of being “nothing but a political activist”.
“Judge, I am going to argue in a closed session that you are nothing but a political activist. You are no judge and you deserve no high office. If anything, you are also factional and belong to Pravin’s (Gordhan’s) faction, and you are pursuing factional battles using the Bench,” he said.
But Pillay did not agree with this.
Asked by Malema if her relationship with Gordhan enhanced the image of the judiciary, Pillay said:
“Unfortunately, it’s not a relationship I can dissociate myself with for the simple reason that he has been my friend for a long time. The fact that he has been in government has never interfered with my adjudicative work, and he and I recognise boundaries. Politicians recognise boundaries with the judiciary.”
Other judges who were interviewed includes Judge David Nat Unterhalter and Judge Bashier Vally.
Unterhalter told the commissioners that throughout his career, he has always wanted to give back.
He also said the Constitutional Court was a court that “we must all feel extremely ambitious about to what it can achieve”.
He said the court was “very well regarded” internationally and also commanded respect in the country.
Vally, who was the last to be interviewed, said he believed he would contribute, should he be appointed.
“I am at that age where I think I can make a contribution. I think I am matured now,” he said.
Vally also said he has the academic qualifications to be a judge in the apex court.