Zuma maintains he has not "appointed" new Chief Justice

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has assured political parties that he has not appointed nor has he taken a final decision on whom to appoint as the country's new Chief Justice.

"Please rest assured that I have not appointed a new Chief Justice, nor have I taken a final decision on whom to appoint as the new Chief Justice," said the President, in an open letter to the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Congress of the People (COPE) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

However, he reiterated his confidence in Justice Sandile Ngcobo as his preferred candidate for the position.

Mr Zuma, who is responsible for making the final appointment after consulting with opposition parties and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), announced Justice Ngcobo as his nomination for the post, during a press briefing earlier this month.

In that briefing, President Zuma said his nomination was subject to advice from the JSC and leaders of political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The open letter is a response to media reports that certain political parties were unhappy that the President had appointed Justice Ngcobo, without consultation with them. They apparently argued that the approach had been unconstitutional.

"It was clear he did not intend for such a consultation to bear any influence on his final decision," the parties said. They had also wanted Mr Zuma to consider Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke as a more suitable candidate.

The President maintained that the use of the word "appoint" in response to a question from the media present, was inadvertent and did not change the fact that it was merely a nomination.

"It is common cause that you first nominate, and then open the consultative process," reads the letter.

It further explains that the Constitutional provisions regarding the appointment process does not preclude the President from proposing a name.

"It is common cause that you first nominate, and then open the consultative process. Our reading of the Constitutional provisions regarding the appointment process does not preclude the President from proposing a name. In fact, the practice as followed in the past has generally been for the President to ask the parties to state their views on a particular name," the letter reads.

The President maintains that in making a final decision, he will take into account any views the leaders of political parties may express.