News / Africa

South African Groups Contest Zuma Decision to Extend Term of Chief Justice

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (File photo)
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (File photo)

Two South African legal groups have launched a court application to challenge, on constitutional grounds, a decision by President Jacob Zuma to extend the term of the country's chief justice.

The South African constitution limits constitutional court judges to a 12-year term of office and requires an act of parliament to change this.  However, last week President Zuma announced he would extend the tenure of Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo by five years, through August 2016.  Zuma relied on a section of the law that governs the remuneration of judges to do so.

Since then constitutional experts have argued the president does not have the legal right to extend the judicial terms of office, and that the law governing remuneration of judges is unconstitutional in that respect.

The president has countered that Chief Justice Ngcobo is an excellent chief justice and that the country continues to need his services.  

Raylene Keightley is director at the Center for Applied Legal Studies, one of the two groups, along with the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, challenging Mr. Zuma's decision.  She says that in the interests of judicial independence, the president should never have the power to extend a chief justice’s term.

“So even if the president's intentions were good, or were they to be bad, and we don’t suggest that in this case, it does illustrate why the executive should not have the power to extend, and why the constitution expressly states that,” she said.

The president’s announcement has also caused a flood of speculation about the reasons for his decision.  In 2008, as a regular judge of the constitutional court, Justice Ngcobo authored the single dissenting opinion in a case in which the court ruled that corruption charges against Zuma should stand.  Keightley says that even though there has never been any question about the chief justice’s integrity as a judge, this kind of speculation can affect the standing of the country’s highest court.

“But it may potentially undermine the administration of justice, if these uncertainties and these kinds of discussions are allowed to prevail, and for that reason we think it is important, even where we have by all accounts a good chief justice, it is important to challenge the underlying legislation that allows this process of appointment, to ensure that the administration of justice is preserved and is in line with the constitution,” said Keightley.

There is a growing sentiment among South Africans that President Zuma’s administration too easily overlooks constitutional principles or attaches too little importance to them.  Keightley says this is why it is so important for civil society organizations to use the courts or other means to ensure government decisions pass the test of the constitution.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More