South Africa: Concerns That Advisory Panel Pondering South Africa's Next Chief Justice Is 'Too Political'


Top judge should be a solid jurist and administrator, and ready to fight for judicial independence.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

After watching the somewhat vicious, public interrogation that judges vying for positions on the Constitutional Court underwent earlier this year, one may wonder why anyone would want the role of South Africa's top judge.

It's a lucrative position - the person who takes over from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng will earn upwards of R2.8-million per year for leading South Africa's courts.

The role doesn't simply require a strong jurist, however, but also a strong administrator as well as someone who is prepared to stand up for the country's judges.

The Constitution calls for the President to appoint the chief justice and deputy chief justice, after "consulting" with the Judicial Service Commission and leaders of the parties represented in the National Assembly.

Unfortunately, the Constitution's wording is vague on the exact process the President should undertake in his selection and consultation, leaving it open for the head of the executive to make it up as he goes along.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a panel of experts, led by Navi Pillay, a former judge at the...

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