Who sits on the JSC panel?
The Judicial Service Commission (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 JSC strut its stuff.
Here is a guide to who is who on the JSC panel.
At the head of the table
If you were a candidate seated facing the JSC, 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 Mogoeng, sits in the middle, with the Minister of Justice, Mr Ronald Lamola, to his left, and to his right the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), Justice Mandisa Maya.
In some cases when one of these members 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. Currently however, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is busy heading the Zondo Commission of Enquiry into State Capture so it is unlikely that he will be available for the JSC interviews should it be required. If the Minister of Justice 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 Appeals Court Judge will attend.
Representative of the Judges President
To the Chief Justice’s right 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 the Hlophe Tribunal for details). Due to this Judge Hlophe has not been present at the last few rounds of JSC interviews and Judge President Leeuw or Judge President Jappie have stood in as representatives of the Judges President in his stead. It is uncertain at this point in time whether Judge John Hlophe still represents the Judges President in the JSC.
Six persons designated by the National Assembly
On your left, the politicians: at the seat closest to the judges is Ms. Thandi Modise, the speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, and someone to be watched closely. Her questions are direct and on point, and often carry interesting political insights. Ms. Thandi Modise’s designation as a member of JSC has courted much controversy as it will be the first time the sitting Speaker of Parliament is also a member of the JSC.
Next to Ms. Thandi Modise is Mr. Gratitude Magwanishe. He is a member of the National Assembly and currently sits on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. 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.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is represented by Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach. Advocate Breytenbach is a member of the National Assembly and currently serves as the Shadow Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.
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.
Four permanent delegates to the National Council of Provinces
Thereafter 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 is 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 (NCOP). Mr. Nyambi is currently the House Chairperson (Committees) in the NCOP and sits on the Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises; the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy; and the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament.
Mr Mosimanegape Kenneth Mmoiemang is a permanent delegate representing the Northern Cape in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Mr Mmoiemang currently sits on the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committees on Security and Justice; Petitions and Executive Undertakings and several others.
Mr Thamsanqa Dodovu is a permanent delegate representing the North West Province in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Mr Dodovu currently sits on the Select Committees on Security and Justice; Petitions and Executive Undertakings and several others.
Four persons designated by the President
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’. Now half are women, so that title is no longer appropriate, a sign of ongoing transformation inside the JSC. Last appointed by President Zuma in 2017, they are Adv Thandi Norman SC, Adv Thabani Masuku SC, and Mr Sifiso Msomi. The fourth “President’s man” is Adv Nkosi Thomas SC, 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.”
A professor of law
For the legal academics, Associate Professor in the UKZN School of Law, Mrs Nomthandazo Ntlama, was elected by the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa. Her focus is customary law, and she will sometimes ask questions about customary law even in the midst of heated exchanges between commissioners on entirely different issues.
Two practicing attorneys
For the attorney’s profession we have Mr C P Fourie and Mr Mvuzo Notyesi. 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 National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL).
Two practicing advocates
Representing the General Council of the Bar are two lawyers, Adv Dali Mpofu and Adv Jennifer Cane. 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 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 in the hearing are the representative of the Premier of the province getting a new judge, or the Premier themselves.
Altogether this makes up the 23 members of the JSC. For more information on what the JSC does you can read our introduction to the JSC.
At this stage we do not know the details of what fully constitutes a quorum at the JSC interviews. We do know that certain members of the JSC have to be in attendance in order for the interviews to be quorate. These members include the Chief Justice, the Minister of Justice, the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the representative of the Judges President, the Judge President of the division which is being interviewed and the Premier of the Province (or the Premier’s appointee) for the division which is being interviewed. Should any of these members be unable to attend or have a perceived conflict of interest, then a suitable substitute must be found.
Written with the assistance of Mbekezeli Benjamin from the Equal Education Law Centre.
This article was updated on 09 September 2019.
Here is an overview of the seating plan for the JSC Commissioners during the JSC interviews:
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 Mogoeng Mogoeng|
|2||President of the Supreme Court of Appeal||Justice Mandisa Maya|
|3||Representative of the Judges President||*TBC|
|4||Minister of Justice & Correctional Development||Mr Ronald Lamola|
|5||Designated by National Assembly||Ms Thandi Modise, ANC|
|6||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Gratitude Magwanishe, ANC|
|7||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Vusumzi Cyril Xaba, ANC|
|8||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Julius Malema, EFF|
|9||Designated by National Assembly||Mr Narend Singh, IFP|
|10||Designated by National Assembly||Adv Glynnis Breytenbach, DA|
|11||Delegates from the NCOP||Ms Sylvia Lucas|
|12||Delegates from the NCOP||Mr Archibold Jomo Nyambi|
|13||Delegates from the NCOP||Mr Mosimanegape Kenneth Mmoiemang|
|14||Delegates from the NCOP||Mr Thamsanqa Dodovu|
|15||President’s appointee||Adv Nkosi Thomas SC|
|16||President’s appointee||Adv Thandi Norman SC|
|17||President’s appointee||Adv Thabani Masuku SC|
|18||President’s appointee||Mr Sifiso Msomi|
|19||Acting Advocate||Adv Dali Mpofu|
|20||Acting Advocate||Adv Jennifer Cane|
|21||Acting Attorney||Mr C P Fourie|
|22||Acting Attorney||Mr Mvuzo Notyesi|
|23||A Professor of Law||Mrs Nomthandazo Ntlama|
|24||Judge President of the Division|
|25||Premier of the Province
(or Premier’s appointee)
*TBC: The Representative of the Judges’ President is still to be confirmed.
NCOP = National Council of Provinces
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: 09 September 2019]