DIANNE HAWKER AND SAPA
President Jacob Zuma’s decision to extend Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term in office appears to have sunk any chances of Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke occupying the top position.
The Presidency issued a statement on Friday announcing that Zuma had elected to extend Justice Ngcobo’s term by five years.
Justice Ngcobo was appointed to the Constitutional Court in August 1999, and was named chief justice in 2009. He was due to retire in August after serving 12 years in the Concourt, in accordance with section 176 of the constitution.
However, Zuma was able to extend the term in line with Section 8 of the Judges’ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act, which says the president can extend the terms of the chief justice and president of the Supreme Court of Appeal “for a period determined by the president”, but not beyond the age of 75.
Meanwhile, Justice Moseneke, who was regarded by opposition parties as the best choice for the job in 2009, will finish his term at the Concourt in November 2017 – just more than a year after Justice Ngcobo’s extended term ends.
In 2009, opposition parties said they considered Justice Moseneke as a “more suitable candidate for the office of chief justice”.
“(He) has served as the deputy chief justice for the past four years, which means he has worked closely with Chief Justice Pius Langa, gaining even deeper experience in relation to the constitution that Justice Moseneke himself was involved in drafting,” the DA, ID and Cope said.
The Presidency said Zuma had briefed opposition parties on the plan to retain Justice Ngcobo.
Zuma said that in the 18 months Justice Ngcobo has been at the helm, he had “made an indelible mark in this prestigious and highly esteemed office”.
“He continues to play a significant role in establishing institutional reforms that seek to define the role and place of the judiciary within the context of judicial independence and separation of powers embodied in our constitution,” Zuma said.
“I am confident that the decision I have taken in requesting the chief justice to continue to perform active service and his subsequent acceptance of my request will promote the maintenance of stability and progress within this important branch of the state.”
Other items discussed on Friday included domestic and international issues.
Speaking outside Tuynhuys after the meeting, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said Zuma had given opposition leaders background information on several international issues.
“We talked about the Ivory Coast, Libya and Bric (the Brazil, Russia, India and China economic bloc). The election was also discussed.”
Cope spokesman Philip Dexter said party leader Mosiuoa Lekota had attended the meeting, but opposition leaders had not been consulted but were rather informed about the extension of Justice Ngcobo’s term.