CRITICISING the Judicial Service Commission in a newspaper article appears to have backfired on Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo.
Judge Mojapelo had contested the Gauteng judge president position alongside Pretoria High Court Judge Malesela Frans Legodi and Labour Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo.
And when the JSC announced the candidate of its choice at the Constitutional Court yesterday, it was Judge Mlambo who was victorious.
In an opinion piece published in the Sunday Times last year, Judge Mojapelo had criticised the process used to appoint former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, saying the process should have been opened up to “engage the interest and attention of all South Africans” in a form of consultations.
“The chief justice of South Africa, like the speaker of the legislature and the president, is an important head of one of the three authorities of government. His or her appointment must thus rightly engage the interest and attention of all South Africans,” Judge Mojapelo said in the article.
During interviews last week, he denied criticising the JSC processes, saying he was merely “putting these procedures in the public domain”. But in response, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said he viewed the article as a critique.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a lawyer said: “Not taking from the great job Judge Mlambo did with the Labour Court, I believe the opinion piece somehow influenced the decision not to consider Mojapelo for the position.”
But others in the legal fraternity believe Judge Mlambo is the best man to take over the reins when Judge President Bernard Ngoepe retires at the end of the year.
“He (Mlambo) is the chairperson of Legal Aid SA.
“He has turned around things in labour courts, and what he did with those courts will help fast-track much-needed changes in other courts… especially the South Gauteng (Johannesburg) high court, which is really sinking under maladministration,” said another lawyer, who also elected to remain anonymous.
Of particular interest was Judge Mlambo’s introduction of the elementary electronic filing option in the urgent and motion court rolls.
It was a “positive” move which it is hoped will benefit the Johannesburg High Court in particular if he applies the same principles there.
Having introduced the pro bono system, which helped to reduce delays, it is hoped that Judge Mlambo will work his magic to reduce backlogs in Gauteng’s high courts as well.
Also emerging victorious were three candidates nominated for judge’s positions in the Johannesburg and Pretoria high courts.
Advocate Selby Alan Masibonge Baqwa SC, Elizabeth Mamoloko Kubushi and advocate Bashier Vally SC were among five candidates who had been shortlisted for the six vacancies advertised, but the JSC “decided not to recommend candidates for the three remaining vacancies”, said JSC spokesman CP Fourie.
He said the three vacancies would be advertised again.
Of the five candidates who were shortlisted for the two Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) vacancies, the JSC decided to nominate Judge Xola Mlungisi Petse and Judge Ronnie Pillay.
It was the second time Judge Pillay sat for interviews for the SCA position, after failing to bag the job last year.
In the Eastern Cape High Court (Bhisho), Duncan Zolani Dukana was nominated out of four candidates interviewed.
Meanwhile, Bulelwa Myra Pakate was nominated for the Northern Cape High Court, while no candidate was nominated for the Kwazulu-Natal high court.
JSC spokesman advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said this was because “none of the (two) candidates got a requisite majority”.
The vacancy for the KZN High court would be readvertised, Ntsebeza said.