MP's, President debate nomination of Judge Ngcobo

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Cape Town - The efficiency of the President's office was called into question in Parliament earlier today, when it was revealed that a letter from the President arrived at the offices of opposition parties, late. A Member of Parliament, during oral responses in the National Assembly, claimed that a letter from President Jacob Zuma about his nomination of Judge Sandile Ngcobo as the new Chief Justice had arrived on 7 August, a day after his announcement of the matter during a press briefing in Pretoria. President Zuma had told the National Press Club that he nominated Constitutional Court Judge Sandile Ngcobo to replace Chief Justice Pius Langa, when he retires later this year. However, Mr Zuma responded by saying that he had written the letter and then assumed that it would be sent and arrive in time. It was perhaps due to the late arrival of this letter that led to political parties believing that the President did not properly consult with them regarding the appointment of a Chief Justice, as he is constitutionally obliged to do. Mr Zuma's response was that he did not believe that his office was inefficient, nor indeed the Post Office, as the letter had taken just three days to travel from his Pretoria offices to Cape Town. He also reiterated that he had only announced Justice Ngcobo as his "nomination" and "it was a slip of the tongue" when he used the term "appointed". "There is nothing unconstitutional about the nomination of Judge Ngcobo as chief justice. It is only a nomination and not an appointment," he said. In making a final decision, President Zuma said he will take into account any views the leaders of political parties may express. President Zuma also dismissed speculation that Judge Ngcobo could only serve for two years as Chief Justice because he has already been a judge for 13 years and Constitutional Court judges ordinarily serve for a maximum of 15 years. "The fact of the matter is that he is in the Constitutional Court right now. He's a judge there and we have nominated him to do the job."