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Malema vs Lamola: Justice department denies EFF claim minister tried to influence ConCourt appointment

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has denied he tried to manipulate the process to appoint a chief justice. File photo.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has denied he tried to manipulate the process to appoint a chief justice. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The justice and correctional services department has moved to dispute EFF leader Julius Malema’s claim that minister Raymond Lamola manipulated the process to appoint a chief justice to have Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo appointed to the post.

This comes after a standoff between Malema and Lamola during acting chief justice Raymond Zondo’s interview on Friday.

During the interview, Zondo revealed Lamola wrote to him last year to ask him to consider appointing Mlambo in an acting position at the Constitutional Court while the nominations process was unfolding. 

Malema suggested this was not the normal process for judicial appointments, resulting in a heated war of words.

In a statement, the EFF accused the ANC-led government of trying to manipulate the appointment of the new chief justice.

Responding to the EFF, justice and correctional services spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said the party was spreading disinformation.

“The insinuation that the minister sought to enhance the appointment ability of a certain candidate, by suggesting the candidate be appointed to act in a vacancy in the Constitutional Court is designed to undermine confidence in the judiciary,” said Phiri.

“The conspiracy is not borne out by the facts or the law. It is for this reason the minister did not hesitate to share all the relevant letters with the commissioners in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).”

Phiri said the process to appoint acting justices for the Constitutional Court occurred before President Cyril Ramaphosa nominated chief justice candidates.

“It is within this context that consultations occur between the chief justice and/or the judge presidents of the superior courts with the minister. To suggest this process as prescribed by the constitution is judicial capture or manipulation is disingenuous at best.

“The minister is constitutionally obliged to recommend an acting appointment with the concurrence of the chief justice. It follows that communication between the minister, [acting] chief justice, or a judge president, as the case may be, to facilitate this process is not unethical nor a desire to fulfil a conspiracy, but rather it is an inevitable outcome of a constitutional obligation,” said Phiri.

The EFF described Zondo’s “revelations” as “shocking, unethical and deplorable” and said it would file a complaint against Zondo to the JSC.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to this bias and unethical conduct. We cannot act like judges are not captured by politicians due to their ambitions for judicial promotions.

“The EFF will file a complaint against Zondo with the JSC for referral to the Judicial Conduct Committee so he is held accountable.

“We call on the dismissal of minister Lamola from cabinet for what is clearly a successful and unethical act to have judge Mlambo appointed as acting judge of the Constitutional Court.”


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