African National Congress (ANC) national chairperson and former secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Wednesday admitted to the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture that the governing party has encouraged individuals to apply for judicial positions.
Resuming with his testimony after lunch, Mantashe told the commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that the ANC did not interfere in the appointments of judges, but the party did encourage individuals who were qualified for the positions to apply.
This is after the Mineral Resources Minister earlier defended the ANC’s deployment policy, saying the party does not have a “cadre deployment” in his opening statement.
“Where it is political we are directly involved… where it is institutional we recommend and people go through those processes. So we don’t appoint judges at any level, but we do encourage experienced legal practitioners to apply when vacancies appear. We don’t go and sit in the selection [process],” he said.
Mantashe told the commission that he never saw a judge who had to account to Luthuli House, which is the ANC’s headquarters located in Johannesburg, in his 10 years as secretary-general.
He said the ANC understood the separation of powers and did not interfere or tamper with it.
“The root of the matter is that judges are not born judges. They go through a particular career development until at the apex of that process, they become judges.
“And the reason I’m saying when I was secretary-general for 10 years, I’ve never seen a queue of judges accounting to me. I can’t remember a day where I had a discussion with a judge, on anything.
“I may be a client of a judge, for my sins in society, that’s it. But I have never seen judges come to Luthuli House to account, because one of the things that the ANC appreciates and understands is the separation of powers. We respect that. We don’t tamper with judges. We don’t get into that space.
“But there’s nothing that stops us to say ‘Advocate X, don’t you think you have been practising long enough to be a judge? Apply’. Because there are these vacancies that have emerged in the various courts, please go and apply, because you have gone through this process,” he said.
The matter comes a day after Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng revealed that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan had approached him to ask how “his close friend” Judge Dhaya Pillay had fared, after she had just finished an interview for a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
Mogoeng said his office received a call from Gordhan seeking an appointment with him.
Gordhan has since provided clarified on the matter, saying he had reached out to Mogoeng with the intention to renew tax ombud Judge Bernard Ngoepe’s appointment in October 2016 when he was still minister of finance.
He said “the enquiry about Judge Pillay was purely incidental to the purpose of the meeting”.
A recording also emerged on Tuesday of ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte saying at a meeting of the ANC top six that Mogoeng was a “disappointment” for advancing his religious beliefs…
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