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Things are looking up for our judiciary

We’ve BEEN telling you for months how strained are in our judicial sector. From worrying vacancies on the Constitutional Court bench (and a lengthy period without a permanent Chief Justice) to the awful Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews of potential judges, and even concerns that white justices weren’t being elected to the ConCourt bench, which is supposed to be representative of all South Africans – it’s been tough.

Well, that’s all slowly changing. 

Ramaphosa appointed acting chief justice Raymond Zondo to the position permanently. Zondo now chairs the JSC and wasted no time this week in implementing recommended changes to the appointment process, particularly the need for written criteria as guidelines for judicial appointments.

He has committed to ensuring all candidates are treated with “dignity and respect”, which his predecessor did NOT do. And as we told you previously, Dali Mpofu has been replaced, along with another commissioner, meaning an end to the political point-scoring he engaged in at the expense of judges being interviewed. (His partner in dodgy questions, Julius Malema, remains.) 

The JSC started interviews on Tuesday to fill the two remaining vacancies in our top court. Five candidates, three of them white, were initially interviewed. But Judge David Unterhalter was dropped from the list after it emerged he once failed to recuse himself from an appeal to a case he had previously judged. He’s considered one of the country’s finest legal minds so it’s a pity to lose him. But the list also includes the highly respected Alan Dodson who was overlooked previously. All four remaining candidates will probably be referred to Ramaphosa to choose the final two. The interview process concludes tomorrow. 

This all points to some stabilising of our judicial system. It’s about time.

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 8 April  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.