Local elections and appointment of judges
What impact do local government elections have on appointing judges? Usually the answer is none, but in this instance the answer is a surprising one – if the ANC are able to put together a coalition government in Tshwane metro, then local government elected Thoko Didiza will become mayor, and will leave Parliament and the JSC.
The JSC will then be required to find a new candidate to take the place of Didiza. This candidate will most likely be a senior politician, and will have to come from the National Assembly.
Didiza will be missed. Her questioning of Judge Kgomo in the last round of interviews was a beautiful thing to watch. He made the mistake of talking about the difficulties around appointing women to the Bench in Limpopo, by saying:
“Limpopo has its women, not in the sense of the female species homo sapiens, but women of substance. We have such women in Limpopo, unfortunately most of them who are capable have been assimilated into the civil service where there are Mercedes Benzes and BMW.” – Judge Kgomo during the April 2016 JSC Interviews in Cape Town.
The Honourable Didiza jumped in to ask what he meant by ‘substance’, and queried if she should view men who are lawyers and drive Mercedes Benz differently to young women lawyers? She concluded by commenting that “If I was in Parliament I would have asked the judge to withdraw, because that is a very sexist inference, even if made as an example.”
She has a certain gravitas on the JSC, and her questions are almost always really solid. She labours, as some of the politicians do, under the difficulty of not having a legal background. This mean that engaging with the technical issues in judgments is not her forte, but as you can see in the above exchange, sometimes you don’t need to be a lawyer to be able to tell a judge when they are off the mark.