Zille appeals to Zuma not to appoint Mogoeng as Chief Justice

DA leader says nominee lacks outstanding legal skills and the support of the legal fraternity

Text of the letter from Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille, to President Jacob Zuma, September 5 2011:

5 September 2011
Hon. President JG Zuma
The Office of the President
Union Buildings
Private Bag X1000

Dear President Zuma

Submission to the Honourable President. Jacob Zurna, on the suitability of Mogoeng J for the position of Chief Justice.

Your letter of 16 August 2011 requested that I, as leader of a political party represented in Parliament, give you my views on the suitability of Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for the position of Chief Justice of the Republic.

My letter to you of the 29th of August 2011 was a request for a meeting to discuss this submission. I would still appreciate an opportunity to do so, at a time convenient to you.

Since you began the process of consultation on 16 August, it has been our hope, and indeed our experience so far, that you meant the process to be meaningful and that you earnestly sought the counsel of South Africa's political and legal leaders. This necessarily means that you have kept open the possibility of changing your nominee, depending on the advice you receive.

Mr. President, it is my firm view, and that of the Democratic Alliance, that Justice Mogoeng is not suitable for the position of Chief Justice. It is our sincere recommendation that you, in exercising your prerogative to appoint the Chief Justice, withdraw your nomination of Justice Mogoeng and consider other candidates.

We believe that Judge Mogoeng does not possess the outstanding legal skills (as opposed to ‘usual' or adequate') required of a Chief Justice. We believe he has, in his history as a Judge, failed to display the unwavering adherence and commitment to the Constitution and its enshrined principled required of a Chief Justice. We believe that he has not shown himself, in his past judgments, to be suitably defensive of the independence of the judiciary.

We do not believe he enjoys the support, both intellectually and collegially, of his colleagues on the Constitutional Court, and of the wider legal fraternity. Lastly, we do not believe he possesses the requisite administrative, accounting and personnel management skills.

The position of Chief Justice within the South African constitutional and legal framework is a unique one. It is the reserve of a person who has reached the pinnacle of legal achievement in this country. It is a position that is viewed as being the definitive custodian and protector of one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

The role played by the Chief Justice in South African society is enormously important, not only with regard to the continuous evolution, elucidation and protection of the Constitution, but also in relation to the leadership of the Judicial Service Commission, the transformation of the judiciary, and the proposed restructuring of South Africa's court system.

We are therefore in search of someone with exceptional attributes within a pool of outstanding people.

The question we have asked ourselves throughout this process of consultation is whether Justice Mogoeng meets the higher thresholds that apply to this position. This is no reflection on Justice Mogoeng, given that by the very nature of the position, only very few qualify for nomination.

In compiling this submission, we have endeavoured to offer a dispassionate assessment of Justice Mogoeng's suitability based on reasoned considerations of his skills and expertise compared against what we need in a Chief Justice. I hope you will receive our views, and our recommendation, in that light.

Thank you kindly for your consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Helen Zille

Leader of the Official Opposition
Democratic Alliance

Issued by the Democratic Alliance, September 5 2011

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