Coronavirus pandemic delays elevation of acting judge
Pretoria - The Covid-19 pandemic has also affected the judiciary, and this could see more acting judges in the Constitutional Court being fully appointed as justices.
The Judicial Service Commission has again postponed its sitting scheduled for next month to consider new appointments.
Judges Matters, an online service which monitors the judiciary and does research into judicial governance processes, expressed concern about the fact that the commission would now only meet next year.
It said this had a significant impact on the appointment of judges generally and more specifically on justices of the Constitutional Court.
“The replacement of Justices (Edwin) Cameron and (Johan) Froneman could have been dealt with in 2020, but Covid-19 has resulted in the postponement of the sitting twice.
“The backlog in appointments will affect all superior courts but the impact on the Constitutional Court will be most keenly felt.”
Judges Matters added that the apex court was already short of another judge, as Justice Raymond Zondo was heading the commission of inquiry into state capture.
Thus, the Constitutional Court is sitting with nine justices, of which two are acting.
It is said that this risks a split decision, with no majority, leaving the law unclear - a situation which has already happened.
The online service said with another three justices stepping down next year, this would in a worst case scenario leave the court at the end of next year with only six permanent justices out of the court’s full complement of 11 remaining.
“If for any reason Justice Zondo remains caught up in the commission, or went on leave, and his position on the court was temporarily filled by an acting judge, that would leave six vacancies and five permanent judges with the court, with a potential majority of candidates who have not actually been appointed to the court.”
The commission must meanwhile still interview candidates to fill all the vacant positions next year and present President Cyril Ramaphosa with a list of candidates to choose from.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng’s tenure is also coming to an end next year.