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Political interference 'stymied' JSC interview process, report finds

Freedom Under Law on Tuesday released a review of the JSC’s work over the last 12 years.

JOHANNESBURG – A new report from Freedom Under Law found that political interference “stymied” the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)’s interview process.

Freedom Under Law on Tuesday released a review of the JSC’s work over the last 12 years.

READ: Judicial Service Commission to interview candidates for court positions

The review highlights what the organisation described as “key deficiencies in the composition and operation of the JSC”.

The commission serves as the judicial watchdog and plays an important role in appointing judges in the country and keeping them in check.

According to the report, the commission’s performance in these two key areas has “in many respects, been dismal”.

And it identifies political interference as one of the problems that beset the interview process.

READ: JSC to interview candidates for positions on WC, NW court benches

The report finds that since 2009, “party-political considerations and influence have pervaded almost every round of interviews”.

In this, it includes “outright harassment of candidates deemed politically unsuitable”.

And one of the effects of “the unpredictability and, at times, outright hostility of the JSC interview process” said the researchers, is that candidates are being put off.

Speaking at Wednesday’s launch, the lead researcher on the report, Calli Solik, said at least 26 candidates had withdrawn after they were shortlisted.

“And anecdotally, people have mentioned they aren’t willing to put themselves through the gruelling JSC interview process. That also indicates there’s probably a greater number of people who are unwilling to make themselves available.

“So, it’s quite a chilling prospect to think about how much the antics of the JSC during the interview process has affected the pool of potential judicial candidates.”

Among the report’s recommendations are changes to the composition of the JSC to increase the number of senior judges and reduce the number of political-party appointees. This would, however, require a constitutional amendment.

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