Defend Truth


Better to wait for the right JSC candidate than merely rush in like fools


Zukiswa Pikoli is Daily Maverick's Managing Editor for Gauteng news and Maverick Citizen where she was previously a journalist and founding member of the civil society focused platform. Prior to this she worked in civil society as a communications and advocacy officer and has also worked in the publishing industry as an online editor.

When in doubt, do nothing. The recommendation to ‘rather wait’ has been drifting in and out of my consciousness for a while as people bandy about the pop psychology around decision-making, burnout and leading a balanced life.

To pause is a difficult thing to do, but health practitioners and wellness consultants often give this advice.

The notion came into focus for me this week as I caught up on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews for judges in the various judicial divisions taking place.

Of particular interest to me were the interviews for a justice for the Constitutional Court, a position that has been vacant since October 2021. Chief Justice Raymond Zondo recently came under fire when he tried to plug the gap with retired judges.

After the interviews of four candidates vying for the position, one was found to be unsuitable, leaving three for consideration. But this does not meet the JSC’s constitutional mandate to recommend four candidates for the President to consider, so no recommendations were made.

“One of the candidates was not found to be suitable. For that reason the JSC was unable to send four names to the president,” spokesperson Mvuzo Notyesi announced after deliberations.

I don’t think it can be stressed enough just how important the seat in the Constitutional Court is. After all, the court is the highest in the land and the custodian of our constitutional road map. Leaving the post vacant, especially for so long, has serious implications. But, given the gravity and complexity of cases that the court deals with, it is very important that the right candidate is chosen.

Still, many are rightly frustrated, including legal organisation Judges Matter, which said: “We are very disappointed that the interviews resulted in no appointment. The court has been short a justice for a long time, and the lack of enough candidates is concerning. The court has experienced delays in handing down decisions.

“We hope that the next round in October 2024 is more successful.”

This obviously also puts strain on the existing justices and stalls the pursuit of justice for those with pending cases.

I do, however, also appreciate that taking longer to make a good decision, in the long run, is the better route, rather than rash choices made as a box-ticking exercise that may have unfortunate ramifications.

If anything, the term “judicious” rings true here as the necessary wisdom is applied. It is also endemic in the legal fraternity to err on the side of caution and be risk averse rather than to act fast and loose.

South Africa has been plagued by institutional failures, but the judiciary has somehow managed to battle through and maintain its integrity and safeguard the country’s laws and people.

So I commend the upholding of principle versus expedience, while also commiserating about the delays in meting out justice.

I trust that by October we will be in a better position, having paused to make a considered choice to aid the wheels of justice in continuing to turn swiftly and efficiently. DM


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