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JSC DOES U-TURN ON PUBLIC INTERVIEWS

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MBABANE – The filling of two vacant positions for new High Court judges by the Judicial Service Commission has been done in a probably new record time.

Two years ago, it took the JSC two months to hire four new high court judges after first advertising the positions, screening the applicants and then interviewing the candidates in public.
Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala, who was acting in the position then, said the interviews were being conducted in public to show transparency.
This was hailed as historic because it was the first time that even the media was allowed to observe the JSC conducting the interviews.

It was through this long and careful process that the likes of seasoned lawyers Sipho Nkosi, Titus Mlangeni, Mzwandile Fakudze and Ticheme Dlamini were chosen to be permanent Judges of the High Court.
At that time the Judiciary needed to regain the public’s confidence after going through a difficult phase that saw axing of the then Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi and then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Sibusiso Shongwe.

During that period, the now dismissed High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane had been placed on suspension.
A fact-finding mission conducted between May 10 and May 15, 2015 by the International Commission of Jurists, in collaboration with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum (AJJF), Judges for Judges Netherlands (J4J) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) found that there was “very little public confidence in the Judiciary”. The mission was concerned at the process of appointing judges, which it said was ‘opaque’ because “vacancies are not advertised; there are no public interviews; and the shortlist of candidates that is referred to the King for his consideration is not publicly disclosed”.
When the JSC, under Maphalala, advertised and conducted public interviews for new judges, the public hailed the process.

Fast forward to now, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Edgar Hillary announced on Friday that Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko and University of Swaziland lecturer Maxine Langwenya had been appointed new High Court judges.
The announcement came six working days after the closing date for applications of these two vacancies.
An advert published in local newspapers stated that the closing date for applications was August 1, 2017.

There were no public interviews and the number of applicants for the positions as well as those who made the shortlist remains unknown.
Minister Hillary, when asked why the interviews were not public, referred inquiries to the JSC as he said it was an independent body.
“It is the duty of the JSC to recommend judges and the ministry plays no part in this process.
“So your questions could best be answered by the JSC Chairman who is the Chief Justice,” Hillary said.

 

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