Gordhan’s meddling slammed in Supreme Court interviews
DURBAN - PUBLIC Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan interfered with the judiciary when he asked Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng how “a friend” of his had performed during an interview for candidates to the judiciary.
This is the view of two independent commentators who hit out at Gordhan as the story surfaced this week during the ongoing interviews for the two vacant posts in the Constitutional Court. Gordhan in a statement yesterday denied that he had tried to influence the appointment of judges.
The comments come as the EFF confirmed yesterday that the party had laid a complaint of corruption against Gordhan in relation to the matter.
“We can confirm we have laid a complaint against Gordhan,” secretary general Marshal Dlamini said.
In his statement, while denying that he had attempted to influence the judiciary, Gordhan admitted asking Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in a meeting about the performance of Judge Dhaya Pillay in a 2016 round of interviews for the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Mogoeng revealed on day two of the interviews, on Tuesday, that he had been puzzled when Gordhan had asked for a meeting (in April 2016).
“In 2016, my office got a call from Mr Gordhan’s office that the minister wanted to meet me. I really don’t know what the purpose of the meeting was, but what stuck to my mind and left me puzzled was that (Gordhan) asked me ‘how did my friend (Judge) Dhaya Pillay perform?’, and I told him since it was public knowledge that (Pillay) did not make it,” said Mogoeng.
Political analysts Professor Sipho Seepe and Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana SC reacted with shock to Gordhan’s actions.
“Undoubtedly he was interfering,” said Seepe, a deputy vice-chancellor for Institutional Support at the University of Zululand.
“He had no business to approach the chief justice. He could simply have waited to hear from his friend (Pillay). This was not just disrespectful, but also bordered on throwing around his political weight,” Seepe said.
Ngalwana said Gordhan’s actions were “at best, a clear attempt to interfere improperly”.
On the issue of the timing of Mogoeng revealing the matter as a concern only now, Sello Chiloane, the chief of staff in the Office of the Chief Justice,
He had no business to approach the chief justice. This was not just disrespectful, but also bordered on throwing around his political weight Professor Sipho Seepe
said the matter should be viewed in its proper context.
Mogoeng said that while he had grappled with the issue, it had become a concern only this week when JSC panellists Narend Singh and Julius Malema asked Pillay if she was friends with Gordhan.
“The chief justice may have felt that since the outcome of the interview was already public and the individuals concerned did not succeed, it was not necessary to entertain it any further,” said Seepe.
“As the chief justice noted, the approach by Gordhan on behalf of his friend stuck in his memory.
“At the time, the chief justice would not have anticipated the concerns that are currently being raised, regarding the toxic relationship between some judges and politicians.
“Things have become so bad that one can anticipate what position certain judges will take whenever certain individuals appear before them,” he added.
“In a sense, Mogoeng was raising this matter as a way of pointing out that he is concerned about allegations of judicial capture taking place under his watch.
“In 2016, the chief justice would not have known that Minister Gordhan would play such a destructive role in the affairs of this country, as was evident in his testimony before the Zondo Commission.
“Twice Gordhan was publicly exposed to be the kind of person who is willing to accuse others on the basis of flimsy evidence or information.”
Ngalwana echoed the sentiments, saying that had Singh and Malema not raised the issue, it was unlikely Mogoeng would have raised it.
“Second, if Judge Pillay’s answer to those questions was consistently categorical about the existence of her friendship with the minister, Mogoeng would probably not have raised the issue.
“In this second regard, Mogoeng took the view that the learned judge’s initial response to Singh didn’t seem to admit or acknowledge that friendship with the minister exists,” said Ngalwana.
Reacting yesterday, Gordhan said the chief justice agreed to meet him in Cape Town in April 2016 to talk about a range of issues related to matters that concerned the national treasury as he was Minister of Finance at the time.
He said: “As I recall, after the completion of the cordial discussion with the chief justice in April 2016, on the matters for which the meeting was requested, I, in passing, did refer to Judge Dhaya Pillay’s interview with the JSC to fill positions for the Supreme Court of Appeal.” He described Pillay as a friend, a political activist and a comrade of long standing.
“I did not meet the Chief Justice in April 2016 to discuss Judge Pillay. The enquiry about Judge Pillay was purely incidental to the purpose of the meeting.
“I want to state emphatically that I would never, and nor did I in any way, seek to influence the chief justice or the JSC in the appointment of judges, whose independence I have always respected.”