Cape Town - Judges have until the end of March to disclose their interests and those of their immediate families, says President Jacob Zuma.

They have 60 days from January 29 to do so, in terms of Section 13 (4) of the Judicial Service Commission Act.

Judges must for the first time disclose their interests to the Registrar of Judges’ Registrable Interests.

“This process will ensure that the disclosure of judges’ registrable interests coincides with the start of the 2014 financial year,” Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, said on Wednesday.

“In terms of Section 13 (4) of the act, judges are required to disclose their interests and those of their family members within 60 days of the fixed date.”

Maharaj said Zuma had given the registrar about two months, starting last month, to ensure the administrative structures were in place to record the particulars of judges’ registrable interests.

“The process should therefore be finalised by March 31.”

Judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court of Appeal had told Parliament during the hearings on the regulations that the country’s more than 200 sitting and retired judges were opposed to the regulations.

But the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (Joasa), which represents judges and magistrates, welcomed the announcement on Wednesday.

“There’s a call for judicial independence, but people must have confidence (in judges) and there must be no notion that a person may have interests. This should be welcomed by the judiciary,” Joasa president Nazeem Joemath said.

“To erase fears (that judges could be conflicted) there should be disclosure. And you must remember judges are well paid.”

Commenting at the time, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution also came out in favour of the disclosure. It said there was “no good reason” why judges should not be compelled to declare their financial interests.

Zuma’s announcement comes four years after it came to light that Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke had a substantial stake in a group of companies.

At the time Justice Moseneke controlled 18 percent of the Encha Group through his family trust, with the rest held by relatives, including his youngest brother, Tiego.

Allegations were made three years ago that Justice Moseneke had failed to disclose his interest in a case he had presided over in 2011.

However, three of the six-member conduct committee of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) investigated and found no proof of misconduct.

They were Supreme Court of Appeal Judge President Lex Mpati, Free State Judge President Thekiso Musi and Pretoria High Court Judge Cynthia Pretorius.

“They found that a judge’s failure to disclose an interest and recuse himself did not qualify as misconduct,” JSC spokesman Dumisa Ntsebeza said in a statement in October.

The claims against Justice Moseneke stemmed from allegations of corruption involving a South African Post Office contract and Tiego. The contract was awarded in 2002.

In terms of the Bangalore Judicial Code of Principles, to which the JSC refers, “a judge shall not participate in the determination of a case in which any member of the judge’s family represents a litigant or is associated in any manner with the case”.

Cape Times