Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke says he doesn’t need the top job to make a meaningful contribution to the judiciary.
Justice Moseneke was chairing the Judicial Service Commission hearing in Cape Town which took the decision to hold a public interview with Chief Justice nominee Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on September 3.
“Therefore I am neither a hopeful, nor a nominee nor a contender, present or future, for the position of Chief Justice,” he told the meeting.
Meanwhile the JSC says it is “neither permissible nor desirable” for it to suggest other potential candidates for Chief Justice.
The JSC called for written input on the suitability of Justice Mogoeng from law bodies representing magistrates, advocates and lawyers. Justice Mogoeng would have to submit his CV and complete the standard JSC questionnaire, the JSC said.
This week an unprecedented furore erupted following Zuma’s announcement, with many in legal circles saying Justice Moseneke should have been nominated instead.
In his opening remarks at the meeting Justice Moseneke said that while he felt honoured that many considered him a potential nominee, he had “never solicited nor accepted any nomination and I am not available to accept any nomination, whatever its source, now or after the deliberations of this commission”.
“In some instances, public speculation nearly suggests that my very life depends on my being appointed Chief Justice. That is simply not so.
“As matters stand, it is a rare privilege to serve my country on its highest court,” he said.
Justice Moseneke added that he was prepared to serve on any other lower court too.
“If my reckoning is accurate, my term on the court ends at the end of 2016. Provided that my will and energy to serve do not wilt, I will continue to serve where I am now, dutifully and in the best sense of a patriotic judge who seeks to make a contribution towards achieving a better life for all.
“To accomplish that, I need not be a Chief Justice.”
Justice Mogoeng is considered among the most junior of Constitutional Court judges, having headed the relatively small North West High Court division.
He joined the court in 2009 with Justices Edwin Cameron and Sisi Khampepe.
Legal analyst Geo Quinot said the concerns raised about Mogoeng’s nomination were based mostly on his limited experience as a jurist as a result of having served in a small division.
If his nomination is confirmed, Justice Mogoeng will serve as Chief Justice for 10 years, as he has only served two of the 12 years of a Concourt term.
Mogoeng’s sojourn at Concourt since 2009 has not been without controversy. He has had to answer difficult questions about why he did not recuse himself from a case in which his wife acted as legal counsel.
He has also been criticised for not being as vocal as his other colleagues, and for not giving any reasons for dissenting on a judgment earlier this year which dealt with defamation and anti-gay sentiments.
Quinot said while Justice Moseneke was “the most obvious choice”, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge President Lex Mpati and Johannesburg High Court Judge President Bernard Ngoepe had more experience than Mogoeng in running large divisions. - Dianne Hawker