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‘Criticism is fine but hurling insults is unwelcome’: Dali Mpofu hits back at JSC interviews backlash

Advocate Dali Mpofu says 'criticism, evaluation and analysis of the interviews is what robust democracies are all about'. File photo.
Advocate Dali Mpofu says 'criticism, evaluation and analysis of the interviews is what robust democracies are all about'. File photo.

Advocate Dali Mpofu has hit back at insults over the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews, saying they are unwelcome. 

Over the past week, Mpofu’s professionalism as part of the JSC panel has been called into question, with several groups calling for his replacement. 

The interviews for the chief justice position took place last week and led to the JSC recommending that President Cyril Ramaphosa appoint Supreme Court of Appeal judge president Mandisa Maya to the position. 

Other judges interviewed were acting chief justice Raymond Zondo, Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo and Constitutional Court justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga.

Speaking on 702, Mpofu said constructive criticism is welcome but insults are not. 

“Criticism is fine but some people have gone beyond and have been hurling insults and that is obviously unwelcome,” said Mpofu.

“Criticism, evaluation and analysis of the interviews is what robust democracies are all about.”

Mpofu denied that as an advocate and former EFF chairperson, he had an agenda to torpedo the campaigns of the other judges and protected Maya. 

He also dismissed claims that he had asked an inappropriate question during an interview, after he asked Mlambo to clear the air on sexual harassment rumours. 

“People are free to make their opinions known but anyone who analyses the questions I asked will realise they were structured in a particular way — questions on the post criteria, a question on transformation and a specific question for a specific candidate,” said Mpofu.

This week, the Pretoria Society of Advocates wrote to the General Council of the Bar (GCB) calling for Mpofu’s removal.

The society said it was particularly concerned by Mpofu’s behaviour and “unacceptable” performance during the interviews.

“To say that the process followed and the treatment of certain nominees, including acting chief justice Zondo and judge president Mlambo, was unfortunate would be an extreme understatement. It was shameful and has certainly done nothing to improve the reputation of the judiciary or the profession,” said the society in a statement.

“Mpofu SC in the interview of judge president Mlambo descended into a character assassination, where the judge president was without prior warning confronted with the allegation of a rumour that he was guilty of the sexual harassment of female aspiring acting judges.” 

Last week, Freedom Under Law said Mpofu should have not been allowed to participate in the proceedings due to investigations into his conduct for telling a colleague and her client to shut up during the state capture inquiry.

It also called for EFF leader Julius Malema to step down from the panel.

“The JSC has long applied the principle that a candidate facing a misconduct charge should not be considered for appointment. Yet the JSC permits two members against whom misconduct proceedings are ongoing to participate in this week’s proceedings,” it said.

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