Johannesburg - The panel into the nomination of chief justice will submit its final report directly to President Cyril Ramaphosa amid a call by former head of intelligence Arthur Fraser to the panel to disqualify the Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo from the race.
This was the reaction of the Presidency, after Fraser’s nine page letter objecting to the nomination of Justice Zondo was made public.
Justice Zondo is among a group of lawyers who were nominated by various law firms including community organisations to be the next chief justice following the end of Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s tenure last week.
Ramaphosa invited new nominations early this month and set clear guidelines in which he asked the participants to set out reasons why their nominee was deemed suitable to be the next Chief Justice.
Deadline for the objections of nominees was last Friday.
In his objection filed Fraser claimed that Zondo lacks the requisite judicial independence, lacks the necessary loyalty to the oath of office taken by judicial officers when they are appointed and lacks the integrity and fairness required for the office of the chief justice.
He claimed that Zondo – while hearing testimonies implicating him in state capture, never gave him an opportunity to react to the version of 10 State Security Agencies (SSA) who implicated him in acts of state capture.
Zondo “is demonstrably not a fit and proper candidate to be the face and embodiment of the values enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa”.
Throwing more punches at Zondo, Fraser said Zondo’s conduct was meant to please the ruling political elite so that it could, in future, give him green light to be the next chief justice.
“Together with Paul Pretorius SC (head of the commission’s legal team and evidence leader), he deliberately permitted no less than 10 witnesses to present falsehoods about me without affording me even one opportunity to state my version before the commission or to defend myself against any of the allegations made against me.
“I have reason to believe that Justice Zondo did this in order to endear himself with the political class so that he can secure the position of chief justice for which he is now nominated,” Fraser said.
Fraser made the claims against Zondo, despite the deputy chief justice having made numerous requests to him and former SSA officials to sort out their differences on Fraser’s request for the declassification of documents to allow him to testify before the commission.
The SSA had at the time accused Fraser of having failed to take up the opportunity to have talks with them about the declassification of information.
In his objection, however, Fraser put the blame on his failure to testify squarely on Justice Zondo.
Reacting to the latest development, presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale said the short-listing panel has confirmed receipt of more than 500 submissions of public comment in support and in objection to the eligible nominees.
“The panel is in the process of evaluating these comments and engaging nominees on these submissions.
“The panel will address the objections to shortlisted nominees to the President,” Seale said.
According to insiders, however, the panel will only comment on shortlisted candidates when they hand over its report to Ramaphosa.
At this stage, it is not clear whether Justice Zondo is among the shortlisted.
While Ramaphosa is expected to receive a report on October 29, political analyst Prof Andre Duvenhage of the North West University believes Fraser’s objection was a “form of a direct political influence in the appointment of a chief justice”.
Duvenhage said Fraser was the “last person” to make such a recommendation, saying he was directly implicated in state capture.
He said Fraser was not a credible person to comment or touch on the issue of the independence of the judiciary.
Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem agreed with Duvenhage saying Fraser had all the opportunity to appear before the commission and place his version on record.
However, Prof Bheki Mngomezulu on Wednesday said he understood the context of Fraser’s objection to Zondo’s nomination.
“I am not surprised about the objection especially given what happened at the Zondo commission and the subsequent incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma in Estcourt Prison.
“Fraser was part of the team that released Zuma on medical parole and Zondo initiated the process that led to his (Zuma) incarceration,” Mngomezulu said.