The Judicial Service Commission says the two judges who applied for the deputy judge president’s post in KwaZulu-Natal were not suitable candidates and the vacancy will now be readvertised.
Judges Fikile Mokgohloa and Isaac Mjabuliseni Madondo had been shortlisted for the position and were interviewed last week.
Despite her being appointed as a judge only in 2008, Mokgohloa had the support of the KZN Bar and 14 judges on the KZN Bench.
In contrast, Judge Madondo was nominated by only three judges, but has political clout and the backing of the Pietermaritzburg branch of the Black Lawyers Association.
In the interviews, Judge Mokgohloa was asked about a judgment, made by Judge Piet Koen, with which she had concurred, that said the JSC had acted unconstitutionally by not properly constituting itself while interviewing judges for the Western Cape High Court.
Judge Madondo was also reportedly interviewed for a considerably shorter time than Mokgohloa but had been interviewed last year for the judge president’s post, losing out to Judge Chiman Patel.
In last year’s interview, he courted controversy when he suggested that Judge Patel, an Indian, was not suitable because of his race.
On Tuesday, the commission said it had decided not to recommend either of the two candidates for appointment.
Approached for comment, JSC spokesman advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said neither of the candidates had got the requisite majority vote during the commission’s ballot.
“In view of this, it was decided that neither candidate be recommended.”
A Durban advocate, who asked not to be named for fear of being victimised, said the JSC’s decision was a “missed opportunity” to appoint a woman to the post.
“It’s a serious issue, they (the commission) comment on the lack of female candidates, but then they do this.”
Another senior legal source, who also asked to remain anonymous, said while it was a “pity” that the JSC did not take the opportunity to appoint a female candidate, it was a “blessing” that Madondo had not been recommended as he lacked the necessary support.
Last October, the commission said it was concerned about the lack of female judges and that women should be encouraged to remain in the profession.
Advocates for Transformation spokesman Rajesh Choudree SC said on Tuesday it was a disappointment that no one had been appointed.
“It’s unfortunate for the judiciary, the legal profession and the users of courts, for the second highest position in the judiciary to remain vacant for a longer period of time. Whether this decision is aimed to encourage other applicants to apply or for other reasons remains an open question.”
The JSC also made the following recommendations on Tuesday: