JSC INTERVIEWS: Delicate task awaits JSC in KwaZulu-Natal
THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will begin its interviews for judicial appointments next Tuesday by looking to fill two judicial leadership positions.
Judge Basheer Waglay is the only candidate being considered for judge president of the labour courts and the Labour Appeal Court, and is widely expected to be a shoo-in for the post.
Currently the deputy judge president, Judge Waglay is highly regarded as an administrator. He worked closely with former labour courts judge president Dunstan Mlambo in turning around the courts’ efficiency.
On the other hand, the race for deputy judge president of KwaZulu-Natal is hotly contested. Judge Isaac Madondo, facing his third interview in as many rounds, is up against the longest-serving judge in that division of the high court, Achmat Jappie.
The deputy judge president position in KwaZulu-Natal has been vacant since last year.
In April the JSC interviewed for the post but did not fill it after both candidates — Judge Fikile Mokgohloa, the favourite choice of her colleagues on the bench and Judge Madondo — apparently failed to impress.
Commissioners used the April interviews to send a stern message to the judges of KwaZulu-Natal that the long-standing practice — unique to that province — of publicly lining up in support of one or more candidates was "utterly undesirable".
It seems the message has been received, at least by Judge Jappie’s supporters. He was nominated by three senior counsel and it is not evident if, like Judge Mokgohloa, he has the overwhelming support of his judicial colleagues.
But Judge Madondo was nominated by the same three judges who nominated him in April — something he might face questions about from potentially disapproving commissioners.
It is understood that the province’s advocates support Judge Jappie for the post.
"He is very popular," said one senior lawyer.
But it remains to be seen how the JSC would look upon the idea of neither of the province’s judicial leadership positions being occupied by an African, given the demographics of the province.
Judge Jappie is coloured and Judge President Chiman Patel is Indian.
Judge Madondo has been a judge for five years.
He worked his way from court clerk in 1977 through to senior counsel in 2004 before being appointed judge in 2007.
Letters of nomination all referred to his extensive community work, including in the Msinga Peace and Development Committee, a nongovernmental organisation that mediated the taxi violence that racked the province for some years.
In his interview for judge president last year, his community work was praised by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize.
But Judge Madondo blotted his copy book in that interview, when he said that although Africans and Indians had both been oppressed, the effect was different, adding that it was preferable for African judges to lead the KwaZulu-Natal bench because they had a better understanding of the suffering of the majority of the people in the province.
He reiterated this view in an interview with the Sunday Times, adding fuel to the fire.
Indian-African politics are a sensitive issue in KwaZulu-Natal, but it remains to be seen whether his remarks will continue to dog his candidacy.
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