Zuma and Ramaphosa to face off over chief justice appointment

Former President Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa. File: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Former President Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa. File: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Published Oct 5, 2023


Durban - President Cyril Ramaphosa and former president Jacob Zuma are expected to face off in court again after Ramaphosa indicated to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that he would oppose an application by Zuma to review the decision to appoint Raymond Zondo as chief justice.

Last year the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended Supreme Court of Appeal president Mandisa Maya for the chief justice position, but Ramaphosa appointed Justice Zondo to the post and Justice Maya was appointed deputy.

Zuma and the Jacob Zuma Foundation in July launched an application against Ramaphosa in the North Gauteng High Court seeking relief to declare the conduct of Ramaphosa in appointing Zondo as the chief justice unconstitutional, and to review and set aside the decision.

The foundation on Tuesday said it had learnt that Ramaphosa had filed his notice to oppose the application, while the JSC filed a notice to abide by whatever decision the court would make.

On their expectations of what should happen next, the foundation in a statement said: “The next step in the process will be the compulsory provision by the JSC and Mr Ramaphosa of the record of the proceedings and deliberations pertaining to the JSC’s recommendations and the president’s decision.”

The foundation said Zuma was looking forward to the legal justification Ramaphosa would provide for his decision when he files his answering affidavit.

“He will be called upon to dispel the allegations or suspicions that Zondo was being unduly rewarded for absolving Ramaphosa for his role in the Bosasa/CR 17 scandal, among other things, in the so-called State Capture Commission Report.”

The foundation said Ramaphosa would be asked to explain why he had overlooked Maya in favour of Zondo.

Last month Ramaphosa successfully challenged Zuma’s attempt to launch a private prosecution against him for not instituting an inquiry into State advocate Billy Downer on the eve of the ANC’s elective conference.

The Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg in July set aside the private prosecution as unlawful and unconstitutional after finding Zuma acted with ulterior purpose, rendering it an abuse of process.

Zuma had sought to charge Ramaphosa as an accessory after the fact to the alleged leaking of his medical information by Downer, the state prosecutor in his arms deal corruption trial, to the media.

In this latest matter he filed a notice of motion to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in July asking for the appointment of Justice Zondo to be reviewed and for Ramaphosa’s conduct to be declared inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid with regards to appointing Zondo as chief justice, rejecting the advice of the JSC and in establishing the nominations panel.

The Presidency said Ramaphosa would engage with Zuma through the courts, while the JSC declined to comment.