Who sits on the JSC panel?
Here is an overview of the seating plan for the JSC Commissioners as at the JSC October 2022 interviews:
**Diagram updated 26 September 2022**
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is the constitutional body set up to appoint judges to the bench, to discipline them for misconduct, but also to advise the Government on any matter concerning the judiciary. The JSC is established in terms of section 178 of the Constitution and 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 can tune in to the livestream of the hearings and watch the JSC strut its stuff.
Here is a guide to who is who on the JSC panel.
AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE / THE SETTING OF THE PANEL
If you were a candidate seated facing the JSC, you would find the Chief Justice seated at the head of the panel . The Chief Justice is the chairperson of the JSC. This position was filled by former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng from 8 September 2011 to 11 October 2021. The position is currently held by former Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, appointed as Chief Justice by President Cyril Ramaphosa, on 1 April 2022.
You would find the politicians, the representative of the Judges President, and the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal on your left. You would find the President’s appointees, the lawyers, the Minister of Justice, and two revolving seats on your right.
The Chief Justice is designated in terms of section 178(1)(a) of the Constitution.
In some cases when one of the members of the panel is not available a designated replacement will sit in. In the case of the Chief Justice being absent it is the Deputy Chief Justice who appears in his stead. If the Minister of Justice (Ronald Lamola) is unable to attend the JSC interviews, then the Deputy Minister (John Jeffery) or another Minister will sit in. Minister Faith Muthambi sat in on the April 2017 round of JSC interviews in place of Minister Masutha who was on sick leave at the time. If the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal is unable to attend, then the Deputy President of the SCA or another designated SCA Judge will attend.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL
To your left ahead should be the President of the SCA .
The President of the SCA is designated in terms of section 178(1)(b) of the Constitution.
As there is no current sitting president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Deputy President Xola Petse is sitting in as representative of the SCA.
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE JUDGES PRESIDENT
To your left, next to the President of the SCA should be the judge who represents the Judges President , who are the leadership of the judges in each provincial division of the High Court.
The previous representative of the Judges President was Judge John Hlophe who is the Judge President of the Western Cape Division of the High Court. There has been an objection to the appropriateness of Judge Hlophe sitting on the JSC panel while still the subject of a disciplinary hearing (see here for details). Due to this Judge Hlophe has not been present at the last few rounds of JSC interviews. North West Judge President Monica Leeuw, Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo or KZN Judge President Achmat Jappie have stood in as representatives of the Judges President in his stead.
The Judge President is designated in terms of section 178(1)(c) of the Constitution.
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE
To the right of the Chief Justice, is the Minister of Justice, currently Minister Ronald Lamola . Minister Lamola was appointed into this position in 2019 and sat in the JSC interviews for the first time in October 2019. Should he not be able to attend the JSC interviews, then Deputy Minister John Jeffery would attend in his stead.
The Minister of Justice is designated in terms of section 178(1)(d) of the Constitution.
SIX PERSONS DESIGNATED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
On your left, the politicians: at the seat closest to the judges is Ms. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula , the Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, and someone to be watched closely as she sometimes brings up the big political issues of the day. The designation of former speaker Ms. Thandi Modise’s as a member of JSC courted much controversy in 2019, as it was the first time the sitting Speaker of Parliament was also a member of the JSC. The controversy has died down and current speaker Ms Mapisa-Nqakula still remains in the role
Next to the Speaker is Mr. Bulelani Magwanishe . He is a member of the National Assembly and is currently the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. A lawyer by training, the soft-spoken Magwanishe often interrogates candidates on the finer nuances of the law and ethics.
Next is Mr. Vusumzi Cyril Xaba , who is a member of the National Assembly and is currently a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.
Half of the six National Assembly members of parliament are from the majority ANC, while the remaining three are from opposition parties.
Members of the National Assembly are designated in terms of section 178(1)(h) of the Constitution.
THE OPPOSITION PARTY MEMBERS
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is represented by Mr Julius Sello Malema , who needs no introduction. A man who knows where many small-anyana skeletons are buried, the JSC 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.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is represented by Mr Narend Singh . He is a committed commissioner, and will have read his brief, and be prepared to ask hard questions. Mr. Singh is a member of the National Assembly and the Chief Whip of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the fourth largest party in the National Assembly. Mr. Singh currently sits on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, and the Joint Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is represented by Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach , who currently serves as a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in the National Assembly. A former prosecutor, Breytenbach doubles up as the Shadow Minister of Justice and Correctional Services in Parliament.
FOUR PERMANENT DELEGATES TO THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROVINCES
The four National Council of Provinces delegates complete the ten-member delegation from Parliament. All four are members of the majority party, currently the ANC.
First up, we have Ms. Sylvia Lucas , who is the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). She previously held the position of Premier of the Northern Cape from 2013 to 2019. By virtue of the provisions of section 178(1)(k) of the Constitution, as a premier of a province, Ms. Lucas was entitled to sit on the JSC when the JSC considers matters relating to the High Court division of the province concerned. She now sits as a representative of the NCOP in terms of section 178(1)(i) of the Constitution.
Mr. Archibold Jomo Nyambi  is a permanent delegate representing Mpumalanga in the National Council of Provinces. Mr. Nyambi is currently the House Chairperson (Committees) in the NCOP but also sits on several other committees.
Mr Mosimanegape Kenneth Mmoiemang  is a permanent delegate representing the Northern Cape in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Mr Mmoiemang currently sits as chairperson of the NCOP Select Committee on Transport and Public Administration and a member of several others.
Mr Thamsanqa ‘China’ Dodovu  is a permanent delegate representing the North West Province in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Mr Dodovu currently sits as chairperson of the NCOP Select Committee on COGTA and several others committees.
The Members of the National Council of Provinces are designated in terms of section 178(1)(i) of the Constitution.
FOUR PERSONS DESIGNATED BY THE PRESIDENT
On your right, the lawyers. Originally nicknamed: ‘The President’s Men’, after Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s 1974 non-fiction book, ‘All the President’s Men’. Now most are women, so that title no longer applies, a positive sign of ongoing transformation in the JSC.
In February 2020 President Ramaphosa announced his first four nominees: attorney Hlaleleni Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu , the founding chairperson of the Legal Practice Council, and Doris Lebogang Tshepe , also an attorney in private practice and a member of a number of boards, including the Ombudsman for Banking Services. He also appointed advocates Mikateko Joyce Maluleke and Thandazani Griffiths Madonsela SC , the former chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Bar . Maluleke was unable to take up her seat on the JSC as she was shortly appointed in national government as the Director General of the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities.
In 2021, shortly before the October JSC round Ramaphosa announced Malulek’s replacement, which was gender activist and current president of the South African Women Lawyers’ Association, Ms Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndaweni , a practising attorney from Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
Following a disastrous round of JSC interviews for Chief Justice in February 2022, Ramaphosa replaced Madonsela SC with Adv Sesi Baloyi SC , the respected former chairperson of the Johannesburg Bar and law clerk for Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs.
The President’s Appointees are designated in terms of section 178(1)(j) of the Constitution.
TWO PRACTICING ADVOCATES
Representing the General Council of the Bar are two senior advocates, Adv Kameshni Pillay SC  and Adv Jennifer Cane SC . Adv Kameshni Pillay SC was selected to replace Adv Dali Mpofu SC after his term, as representative of the General Council of the Bar expired on 10 February 2022. Both woman are experienced lawyers who have the inside track from the advocates who work in the courts all the time. They give the view of the Bar on an applicant and often would interrogate candidates on their court manner and style of judgment-writing. Having been a member since 2017 Cane SC is now something of a veteran of the JSC, and is joined by Pillay SC who was nominated by Advocates for Transformation.
The two practising advocates are designated in terms of section 178(1)(e) of the Constitution.
TWO PRACTICING ATTORNEYS
For the attorney’s profession we have Mr Etienne Barnard  and Mr Mvuzo Notyesi . Mthatha attorney Mr Notyesi is nominated by the respected National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL), and often asks questions in a grumpy growl that triggers the nerves of most candidates. Cape-based attorney Barnard is co-chairperson of the Law Society of South Africa and newcomer to the JSC.
The two practising attorneys are designated in terms of section 178(1)(f) of the Constitution.
A TEACHER OF LAW
Representing legal academics as teachers of the law is Professor Engela Schlemmer , the head of Wits University’s School of Law. Schlemmer is currently the longest-serving member of the JSC, having first joined in 2010 (with a hiatus between 2015 and 2021), In 2022 she will be the only commissioner who would have interviewed two chief justice candidates.
Professor Schlemmer is designated in terms of section 178(1)(g) and was nominated by the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa.
Also present at each round of interviews will be the Judge President  heading the division in which an appointment is being made. In addition to this on the interview panel is the Premier of the province  getting a new judge, or the Premier’s representative (often a senior MEC)..
Altogether this makes up the 23 permanent members of the JSC. The number of commissioners on the JSC fluctuates depending on the subject matter of the meeting they are convening to discuss. The usual number is 23, which includes most of the permanent members of the JSC, This number increases to 25 when the JSC meets to make appointments to provincial High Courts and both the Premier and Judge President of the province concerned joins the JSC. The number decreases to only 15 when issues of judicial misconduct are discussed, and all members of Parliament are excluded.
For more information on what the JSC does you can read our introduction to the JSC.
This article was updated on 21 March 2022.
Here is a list of the current Commissioners on the JSC panel:
|MEMBERS OF THE JSC||CURRENT COMMISSIONERS|
|HEAD OF THE TABLE|
|1||Chief Justice||Chief Justice Raymond Zondo|
|2||Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Appeal||Judge Xola Petse|
|3||Representative of the Judges President||Judge President Monica Leeuw
(North West High Court)
|4||Minister of Justice & Correctional Development||Minister Ronald Lamola|
|5||Designated by National Assembly||Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, ANC
(Speaker of the National Assembly)
|6||Designated by National Assembly||Mr. Gratitude Magwanishe, ANC
(Chairperson of Justice Committee)
|7||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Vusumzi Cyril Xaba, ANC
(Chairperson of Defence Committee)
|8||Delegates from the NCOP*||Ms Sylvia Lucas, ANC
(Deputy Chairperson, NCOP)
|9||Delegates from the NCOP||Mr Archibold Jomo Nyambi, ANC
(House Committee Chair, NCOP)
|10||Delegates from the NCOP||Mr Mosimanegape Mmoiemang
(Transport Committee Chair, NCOP)
|11||Delegates from the NCOP||Mr Thamsanqa Dodovu, ANC.
(COGTA Committee Chair, NCOP)
|12||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Julius Malema, EFF|
|13||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Narend Singh, IFP|
|14||Designated by National Assembly||Adv Glynnis Breytenbach, DA
(Justice Portfolio Committee)
|15||President’s appointee (Practicing Attorney)||Hlaleleni Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu,
Legal Practice Council
|16||President’s appointee||Adv Sesi Baloyi SC
|17||President’s appointee||Ms Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe
(Practicing Attorney, President: SAWLA*)
|18||President’s appointee||Ms Doris Lebogang Tshepe
|19||Practicing Advocate||Adv Kameshni Pillay SC
(General Council of the Bar)
|20||Practicing Advocate||Adv Jennifer Cane SC
(General Council of the Bar)
|21||Practicing Attorney||Mr Etienne Barnard
(Law Society of SA)
|22||Practicing Attorney||Mr Mvuzo Notyesi
(Law Society of SA, President: NADEL*)
|23||A Teacher of the Law||Professor Engela Schlemmer
(Head: Wits School of Law)
|24||Judge President of the Division|
Premier of the Province
(or Premier’s appointee)
* NCOP = National Council of Provinces
* NADEL = National Association of Democratic Lawyers
* SAWLA = SA Women Lawyers Association
This is a general description of where commissioners sit to be used as a guideline. Commissioners may switch the order of seating amongst themselves.
[Updated: 20 September 2022]