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Pressure on Ramaphosa to fill ConCourt vacancies

A sitting of inside the Constitutional Court chambers in Johannesburg Picture: NOKUTHULA MBATHA/ANA archives

A sitting of inside the Constitutional Court chambers in Johannesburg Picture: NOKUTHULA MBATHA/ANA archives

Published Dec 16, 2021


PRESSURE is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa to fill the two positions that became vacant in the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) earlier this year.

Ramaphosa has yet to finalise the appointment of judges to replace retired justices Sisi Kampepe and Chris Jafta.

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Interviews for the two positions were redone in October following a court battle over the interviews conducted in April.

Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said on Tuesday he hoped that Ramaphosa would make his decision soon.

In a statement, Freedom Under Law (FUL) said it supported the call by Justice Zondo for Ramaphosa to fill the vacancies on the ConCourt bench without further delay.

FUL chairperson, retired judge Johann Kriegler, said his organisation had previously warned against the harmful effects of drawn-out failures to appoint permanent members of the apex court.

“The consequence has been that for several years, a series of acting members of the court have in effect served at the personal choice of the chief justice, as and when he has decided,” Kriegler said.

He also said disunity, open friction, and long delays in delivering judgments have become matters of record and public concern.

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“Leadership and judicial example are expected from the top court. Instead, there has been little, made worse now by the President’s apparent temporising.”

Kriegler said the deplorable recent record of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had itself contributed greatly to the present crisis.

“There can be no doubt that able potential candidates are held back by the spectacle of a public mauling by political representatives and those who side with them, unconstrained by any clear criteria for appointment and with little or no control from the chair,” he said.

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He noted that the JSC has had to concede the setting aside by the high court of its previous interviews of Constitutional Court candidates and upon rerunning the interviews, it adhered to its original choice by excluding one of the nominees, Judge David Unterhalter.

Kriegler said the state of affairs was now compounded by Ramaphosa’s delay and apparent indecision in filling not only the Constitutional Court vacancies but the chief justice’s position.

“While wishing the president a speedy recovery from Covid, we remind him that he has clear constitutional duties. He needs to fulfil them without further delay,” he said.

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