Freedom under Law (FUL) is sounding the alarm over the inclusion of “two political appointees” on the panel appointed to shortlist candidates for the position of Chief Justice.
Current Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s term will come to an end next month.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has since invited the public to submit nominations for the post.
“While FUL is supportive of a process intended to allow for greater transparency and public scrutiny of the selection process – it nonetheless registers several concerns relating to the composition of the panel appointed to shortlist,” said FUL CEO Nicole Fritz.
Fritz said while the panel consists of several outstanding persons, the inclusion of political appointees is not to be welcomed.
“The inclusion of two political appointees from the same political party is especially contrary to any principle,” said Fritz.
The panel consists of:
- Former Judge of the International Court of Justice and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, as chairperson,
- Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola,
- Former Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe,
- Former Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela,
- Co-chair of the South African National AIDS Council, Ms Mmapaseka Steve Letsike,
- Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law, Professor Ziyad Motala.
Fritz also noted that there were no senior or recently retired judges included on the panel.
“There is no one with direct knowledge of the current workings of the South African judiciary. Senior legal practitioners are also not represented on the panel, again excluding those with a significant understanding of the current problems faced by the judiciary as a whole- and with direct knowledge of individual candidates.”
FUL said the committee is insufficiently balanced in its composition and does not draw on the best available knowledge of the current state and needs of the judiciary.
“It is not likely to elicit the degree of public confidence vital to the process,” said Fritz.
South Africans took to social media to voice their opinion, while some even put names in the hat for the top position.
According to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Ramaphosa’s process is flawed because of his choice of panel members.
Half of the panel consists of Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, former minister of justice Jeff Radebe, and former public protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela.
“What would appear as an unprecedented noble call for public participation is now marred by the inclusion of questionable characters that Ramaphosa has chosen to preside over the shortlisting process. His choice of those in close proximity to the Stellenbosch mafia and apologist of white monopoly capital for the selection team is a clear indication that funders of his ascendancy to the high office will capture the judiciary by proxy,” said the party in a statement.