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A white man has been appointed to the ConCourt. Here’s why that’s a good thing

The Presidency announced Judge Owen Rogers as the latest appointment to the Constitutional Court last week, bringing the Court closer to a full bench of 11 justices. 

This is great news. Last year we told you how strained things were, from the vacancies on the ConCourt bench (and a lengthy period without a permanent Chief Justice) to the awful Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews for potential judges. 

The court was also struggling with a heavy caseload and the to-do around its election date judgment didn’t exactly cover it in glory. It needed to improve on the administrative front, too. 

Now things are looking up. Justices Jody Kollapen and Rammaka Mathopo’s appointments were announced in December and Supreme Court of Appeals president Mandisa Maya is expected to join the apex court soon, after her interview for deputy chief justice next week.

Rogers’ race is worth noting. The JSC had previously come under fire for excluding Judge David Unterhalter and advocate Alan Dodson from their Constitutional Court list, with committee members Julius Malema and Dali Mpofu questioning both about their fitness for the court as white men

We’re all for transformation but the questions were bizarre, given that the Constitution clearly states the “judiciary must broadly reflect the demographics of SA in terms of race” and there were no white men on the bench at the time. It’s also petty considering the role that retired justice Edwin Cameron, who happens to be a white man, played in progressing our democracy with landmark judgments. 

Thankfully the JSC is also getting cleaned up and sanity is being restored to our all-important judiciary. 

More on Rogers: he was appointed to the Western Cape High Court in 2013 and practised privately before that. He was previously a judge for the Competition Commission.

Some of his key judgments include his finding last year that the ConCourt had no power to postpone Local Government Elections. The IEC scrambled to comply, and the elections were successfully held on 1 November 2021.

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