by Franny Rabkin
WHEN it comes to the Constitutional Court, it is a bit unfair that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has borne the brunt of criticism that there are not enough women on its bench.
The criticism should be directed at President Jacob Zuma because Constitutional Court appointments work differently to other courts.
The president’s role is a rubber stamp with the rest of the courts: he must appoint those who are recommended by the JSC. But for the Constitutional Court, the JSC has to give the president a list of names, with three more names than the number of vacancies, and he then makes his choice.
Since Zuma became president, there have been three rounds of interviews for the highest court.
In two of the three rounds, the JSC gave him female options to choose. But he has only appointed one woman to the Constitutional Court — Justice Sisi Khampepe in 2009.
In interviews that will be conducted on Thursday, all the candidates are women. They are: Supreme Court of Appeal justices Nonkosi Mhlantla, Zukisa Tshiqi and Leona Theron and KwaZulu-Natal High Court judge Dhaya Pillay.
An all-female list of candidates means that the next judge to be appointed to the Constitutional Court will be a woman – a positive and symbolic step.
By Tabeth Masengu
History in the making? A coup for activists of gender transformation? An opportunity to see some of South Africa’s finest jurists? These and many other questions will plague many of us when the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews its four candidates, all women, for the Constitutional Court vacancy that was left by Justice Thembile Skweyiya when he retired in May last year. Judges Leona Theron, Zukisa Tshiqi and Nonkosi Mhlantla of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), and Judge Dhaya Pillay of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court are
vying for the position in the highest court in the land.
Last year, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was quoted as saying the JSC would take some time “before advertising the post left vacant ... This was so that the JSC would be spoilt for choice.” Admittedly, four candidates (the bare minimum required) for one Constitutional Court vacancy is not the long list he may have hoped for, but this is the first time the JSC will be presented with an all-female list for
such a position. The last interviews for the same court in 2013 featured an all-male list and, before that, the 2012 interviews had only one woman on the four-person list in 2012.
AARTI J NARSEE
THE Judicial Service Commission will this week interview four women judges for a single Constitutional Court spot, starting a process expected to throw into sharp relief some of the tensions related to the independence of the judiciary.
The candidates are Supreme Court of Appeal justices Nonkosi Mhlantla, Zukisa Tshiqi and Leona Theron, and Kwa-Zulu-Natal High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay.
All are seeking the slot made vacant by the retirement of Justice Thembile Skweyiya last year. There are two women, justices Bess Nkabinde and Sisi Khampepe, and eight men serving on the Constitutional Court, which has 11 such posts.
Unlike other judicial appointments, for which the JSC recommends one candidate to the president, the Constitutional Court appointment rests largely on the president’s decision.
The interviews come at a time of heightened tension between the judiciary and the executive, sparked by the government ignoring a court order barring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from leaving South Africa.
The ANC-led tripartite alliance, which concluded a summit in Pretoria this week, added fuel to the fire when, in one of its resolutions, it raised concerns about the “emerging trend, in some quarters, of judicial overreach”.
DGRU assisted the Western Cape Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges to advertise their newly launched mentorship programme for women law students. The response from the students was overwhelming and the programme has been very active since its launch with a large number of UCT students participating. Students are visiting the court during holidays and listening in during court proceedings and the judges have brief discussions with them afterwards. Students are enjoying being exposed to the practical side of the law immensely.