Who sits on the JSC panel?
The JSC is made of up lawyers, politicians and judges, and a lone academic. With hearings happening twice a year in the first week of April and October, you might want to tune in to the live stream of the hearings and watch the Commission strut its stuff.
Here is a guide to who is who on the JSC.
If you were a candidate seated facing the Commission, you would find the politicians on your left and the lawyers on your right. Straight ahead, in a panel of four, are the three judges, plus the Minister of Justice. Chief Justice Mogoeng, (13) sits in the middle, with the Minister of Justice, Mike Masutha, (14) to his left, and to his right the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). At the recent round of JSC interviews in April 2017, Mr Masutha was on sick leave so acting minister Faith Muthambi attended the interviews in his absence.
The current President of the SCA is Justice Mandisa Maya, (12). She was acting SCA President since Justice Lex Mpati retired. Judge Maya was interviewed by the JSC in April 2017 for the position of President of the Supreme Court of Appeal and has been appointed by President Zuma.
To the Chief Justice’s right again is the judge who represents the Judges President, who are the leadership of the judges in each provincial division of the High Court. A new representative will soon be appointed in light of Judge President Kgomo’s imminent retirement (11).
On your left, the politicians: at the seat closest to the judges is Thandi Modise, (10) chair of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), and someone to be watched closely. Her questions are direct and on point, and often carry really interesting political insights. Next to her is Thoko Didiza, (9) a senior ANC politician and nearly mayor of Tshwane. Her questions are often as good as, if not better than, Ms Modise, and she will venture into hard legal questions, which is brave in a room full of lawyers. Generally next is Ms Magadzi, (8) formerly a Member of the Executive Council (MEC), responsible for the Department of Health and Social Development in the Limpopo Provincial Government. Her questions often focus on customary law issues. The other senior politician in the room is Dr Motshekga. Dr Motshekga is the Chair of the Justice committee from Parliament, his questions show his keen interest in the place of customary law in the legal system.
Next we have Mr Stock, (5) from the NCOP, who isn’t particularly active in asking questions. Other commissioners from the NCOP are Ms Mampuru, Mr Ximba and Mr Nyambi (6).
Then Julius Malema, (4) who needs no introduction. A man who knows where many small anyana skeletons are buried, the Commission will hold its collective breath from time to time, as Mr Malema drills down into the relationship between a nominee and prominent business people. As a cross examiner, he is very precise and drives the candidates to admissions they may not have expected to find themselves making.
Hendrik Schmidt (3) represents the DA on the Commission, and has done for many years. He has a B. Juris, an LLB degree, an LLM from RAU and an MPhil. He worked for the Department of Justice as a public prosecutor and then as a State advocate. With these qualifications and experience you might expect more questions from Mr Schmidt, but he is not a particularly engaged commissioner.
Mr Narend Singh (2) from the IFP is a committed commissioner, and will have read his brief, and be prepared to ask hard questions.
On your right, the lawyers. The first four of them were known as ‘The President’s Men’, after Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s 1974 non-fiction book, ‘All the President’s Men’. They are now half women, so that title is no longer appropriate, a sign of ongoing transformation inside the JSC. Appointed by the President, they are Adv Thandi Norman SC, (15), Adv Thabani Masuku SC, (16) and Mr Sifiso Msomi. The fourth “President’s man” is Adv Nkosi Thomas SC, most recently famous for her appearance in the Nkandla hearing in the Constitutional Court. She argued for the Speaker that the Public Protector’s remedial action without scrutiny provided by Parliament would amount to dictatorship. In her words; “The public protector cannot dictate to Parliament what to do.” But the Chief Justice asked; “So it was open to Parliament to effectively render the remedial actions of the Public Protector void?” She later conceded: “Parliament took a wrong position.”
For the legal academics, Associate Professor in the UKZN School of Law, Nomthandazo Ntlama,(19) was elected by the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa. Her thing is customary law, and she will ask questions about that in the middle of heated exchanges between commissioners on entirely different issues. We have seen other commissioners actually drop their heads into their hands at her sometimes entirely tangential questions.
For the attorney’s profession we have Mr Fourie (20) and Mr Notyesi (21). Mr Fourie is a formidable commissioner – he has a firm grip on all the candidates’ backgrounds, and often is able to bring to the table recent experience of a candidate or concerns around their practices. Mr Notyesi is the chairperson of NADEL.
Representing the General Council of the Bar, are two lawyers, Adv Motimele (17) and previously Adv Mike Hellens (18). Adv Hellens resigned from the JSC with immediate effect after the JSC interviews for the Eastern Cape High Court in April 2017. We are still awaiting confirmation of his replacement. Both lawyers generally have the inside track from the advocates who work in the courts all the time, and often give the view of the Bar on an applicant.
Also in the hearing are the representative of the Premier of the province getting a new judge, or the Premier themselves (24). They often seem a bit overwhelmed, to the extent of refusing to give their names to anyone they don’t know. This hinders our ability to identify them for you, but we can only do our best. Also present will be the Judge President heading the division in which an appointment is being made (23).
Altogether this makes up the 23 members of the Judicial Service Commission. For more information on what the JSC does you can read our introduction to the JSC.
(*Numbers in brackets refer to where each Commissioner is sitting in the image above.)
[Updated: June 2017]