Everyone concerned about the Rule of Law in Southern Africa must have noted with mounting dismay this week’s news and media comment on the Judicial Service Commission’s latest deliberations. The JSC is an important public body created by the Constitution to protect and promote the Rule of Law by ensuring the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary. It is a pity that instead of being protected, the dignity and standing of the judiciary are being damaged by the criticism and contention aroused by the JSC’s behaviour this week. The fact that a representative of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa found it impossible to continue serving on the JSC increases the alarm.
Freedom Under Law has in the past been compelled to challenge the constitutionality of decisions and conduct of the JSC through the courts – ultimately successfully. Unfortunately this latest sequence of egregious events may well oblige FUL to challenge the JSC yet again. It is always regrettable when the image of a public body that ought to enjoy the undivided support of the country is brought into question; but when the alternative is continued impairment of the Rule of Law, the choice is clear.
It follows that if nobody else takes action, the board of Freedom Under Law will have to consider whether it is once more to institute appropriate proceedings to have the propriety and legitimacy of the JSC’s current course of conduct tested in court.