zuma appoints four new lawyers to JSC

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has appointed four new members of the Judicial Services Commission.

They are advocates Ishmael Semenya, Dumisa Ntsebeza, Vas Soni and Andiswa Ndoni.

Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said yesterday that Zuma appointed the four "after consulting with the leaders of all parties represented in the national assembly".

Magwenya said the four were appointed "because of their impeccable credentials and experience in the legal fraternity".

They replace advocates George Bizos, Khomotso Moroka, Seth Nthai and John Ernstzen.

Bizos and Moroka have served on the commission since its inception.

Ntsebenza is a human rights lawyer who served as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigations unit that investigated human rights abuses by apartheid security forces.

He has also acted as a high court judge. He is a member of the Black Lawyers Association, a board member of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and board member of the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust.

Semenya has been involved in several commissions. He headed the one that investigated alleged acts of corruption in the allocation of public properties in Limpopo.

He was also part of the Ginwala Commission that looked into former national prosecuting authority head Vusi Pikoli's suitability to hold that office.

Semenya has also represented former ANC Women's League president and now MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in several matters, including her divorce case.

Ndoni is current head of the Black Lawyers Association. She is well known for her fiery public statements about the lack of transformation in the judiciary.

Soni landed in the spotlight when as an acting judge he ordered the gagging of the Mail & Guardian, ruling that Imvume and its boss Sandi Majali's right to privacy, dignity and reputation, trumped both freedom of expression and the public's right to know about the conduct of their elected government.

At the time, this ruling was severely criticised for striking completely the wrong balance between the individual rights of a flashy businessman, on the one hand, and the right to open and transparent government, on the other.

As it turned out the Mail & Guardian's, story, which formed the subject of the gagging order, was spot on and the ANC paid back the money that Majali's company had donated to the ANC after a dodgy deal with Petro-SA.