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Zuma’s powers over top court choices queried

14 Jul 2015 - 09:45

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”.

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