DEPUTY CHIEF JUSTICE INTERVIEW, JUNE 2022
The Judicial Service Commission interviewed Justice Mandisa Maya on the 20th June 2022, for the position of Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa. In fulfillment of the president’s consultation process in terms of the constitution, is complete. “The JSC has decided to advise the president to appoint Justice Maya as Deputy Chief Justice”
On 10 March 2022 President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the formal appointment of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as the next Chief Justice of South Africa. At the same time, the President indicated his intention to nominate Justice Mandisa Maya to succeed Justice Zondo as the next Deputy Chief Justice.
Justice Maya and Justice Zondo had, at the time, both survived gruelling interviews as candidates for Chief Justice, alongside Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga and Judge President Dunstan Mlambo.
On 7 Aril 2022 the President wrote to Chief Justice Zondo formally nominating Justice Maya to the position of Deputy Chief Justice. Justice Maya immediately accepted the nomination.
The role of the JSC
In terms of section 174(3) of the Constitution, the President may only appoint the Deputy Chief Justice after consulting the JSC and leaders of political parties in the National Assembly. Consultation is therefore a mandatory requirement for the appointment, and the President cannot avoid it. However, the Constitution does not spell out what consultation looks like.
The JSC has decided that the consultation required by the Constitution means that a candidate must follow the regular practice, which includes submitting a formal application and undergoing an interview. Thereafter, the JSC deliberates on what they’ve read and heard from and about the candidate before finally advising the president on the suitability of the candidate to the position.
Save for three new faces, the JSC interview panel that interviewed Justice Maya in February is largely the same.
Is there a need for Justice Maya to interview?
The need for an interview makes perfect sense when a candidate is relatively unknown by JSC commissioners due to them not being a judge (and thereby never having undergone an interview) or when a long time has elapsed since their last interview. However, in the case of Justice Maya, she was last interviewed in February for chief justice, a position higher than the position she has now been nominated.
There was huge interest in the CJ interviews, with rolling coverage across the media and deep analysis for many weeks afterwards. Virtually all the current commissioners of the JSC were present during Maya’s interview, and those who weren’t present could not have missed it in the media (unless they were living under a rock in the Karoo desert). Significantly, the JSC recommended Justice Maya as their favourite of all four candidates. Hardly anything has changed in the last few months to lead the JSC not to recommend her to the DCJ positions.
For all these reasons, the in-person interview at a swanky hotel in Sandton doesn’t seem to justify the enormous bill the public will have to foot.
Despite this, and considering that the interviews are going ahead, there is some value that can be derived from the interview, especially through some of the issues that can be taken such as court infrastructure, the judiciary budget and the unique roles of the DCJ.
What is the role of the Deputy Chief Justice?
But does this mean the same issues will be traversed during the interview? Probably. But not necessarily. What issues could be addressed time around?
Firstly, the role of Deputy Chief Justice is slightly different from the CJ position. It requires a fresh strategy and new vision.
The legal definition of the role of DCJ is not defined in the Constitution, except for section 167(1) which says the DCJ is part of the Constitutional Court.
Section 4(2) of the Superior Courts Act elaborates further by saying that the DCJ must exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Chief Justice if there is an absence or vacancy in the CJ role, or if the CJ specifically assigns those powers and functions to the DCJ.
In practice, we have seen the DCJ play the following roles:
- As Acting Chief Justice – like Justice Zondo did in 2021 when CJ Mogoeng retired.
- As chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee, which is responsible for disciplining judges for misconduct. This is a delegated function.
- As chairperson of the Council of the SA Judicial Education Institute, by delegation.
- As a member of the National Efficiency Enhancement Committee, by invitation.
So the role of DCJ is both vast and flexible.
About Justice Mandisa Maya
Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) President Mandisa Maya is a woman of firsts: she was one of the first women judges on the Eastern Cape High Court, the first black woman on the SCA, the first woman Deputy President and, later, the first woman President of the SCA. It this blazing track-record that put her as the frontrunner among the four candidates running to be Chief Justice, but also makes her suitable for Deputy Chief Justice now.
Justice Maya has previously acted on the Constitutional Court and, if appointed, would serve the full 12-year term as a Deputy Chief Justice and possibly later as Chief Justice when CJ Zondo retires.