Top lawyer cries foul as Zuma appoints judges
President Jacob Zuma yesterday appointed new judges to the bench, but several vacancies have still been left unfilled.
New judges were appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein as well as of high courts in Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng.
The Judicial Service Commission failed to recommend candidates for the position of deputy judge president of KwaZulu-Natal and for three positions at high courts in Gauteng because it had been found that the nominated candidates were not suitable for the positions.
These vacancies will be advertised in October, according to the commission's spokesman, CP Fourie.
In March, the commission was unable to shortlist candidates for a position in the Constitutional Court because it received an "insufficient number of appropriate nominations".
Four candidates - Supreme Court of Appeal justices Robert Nugent, Mandisa Maya and Lebotsang Bosielo and North Gauteng High Court judge Raymond Zondo - have since been shortlisted and will be interviewed next month.
Acting on the JSC's recommendation, Zuma appointed Xola Mlungisi Petse and Ronnie Pillay as justices of the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Advocate Wim Trengove SC said, however, that he was disappointed that Eastern Cape judge Clive Plasket, an expert in administrative law with 58 reported judgments, had not been appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal bench.
Many lawyers felt Plasket was overlooked in favour of Judge Pillay.
Trengove said Plasket was just one of many suitable candidates who had not been considered.
He said the commission's call for competent and appropriately qualified candidates to apply for positions would go unheard until it gave a credible answer as to why suitable candidates were overlooked in the past.
"I don't think the problem will be solved until the commission gives a credible answer on the failure to recommend other suitable candidates," he said.
Trengove said he did not believe the JSC was desperate for good judges.
He said "the quality and the image of the bench suffers as a result" of its actions.
Fourie said the commission always appointed suitable candidates to help create a strong judiciary.
He said unfilled positions did not affect the workings of the courts and that most often acting appointments were made to fill the gaps.
Former public protector advocate Selby Baqwa, whose office oversaw one aspect of the arms deal probe when former president Thabo Mbeki was in office, has been appointed as a judge in the Pretoria High Court.