About time we interviewed incumbent state President as we do Chief Justice?

Reports of the now appointed Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng losing his cool while being interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission early in early September 2011, to say the least, was quite interesting because it gave us the general public – and his critics too, who have criticised him for being inexperienced for the position and his anti-women, homophobic and untransformed judgements previously – a sense of who were are likely to deal with.

It was these “negative comments” by critics that Mogoeng refuted which claimed he is “insensitive to gender-based violence, that I am homophobic, that I have no, or little, regard for judicial ethics and that I do not subscribe to freedom of expression”. I, too, found these comments to be quite unfair. This is because and as far as I could remember – none of Mogoeng’s insensitiveness, homophobic tendencies and lack of judicial morals and ethics have ever been raised before at the time when he was appointed to judicial positions that he has held previously. So why raise them now?

That President Jacob Zuma decided to appoint Mogoeng as Chief justice should not have come as a surprise as it did because he was appointed to the Constitutional Court without any opposition either from the Bar Council of South Africa, Law Society of South Africa, Black (and white) Lawyers of South Africa and many other civil organisations, including opposition political parties that were fiercely opposed to his appointment so much that they were even prepared to go to the Constitutional Court to want to have his appointment or part of the legislation used by Zuma declared unconstitutional.

Further, it is not clear why this heavy opposition as there were media reports suggesting that many of his colleagues approached for appointment by Zuma had allegedly declined, probably fearing what their colleague and deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke would say. This, some argued, because their acceptance of the nomination would be seen as their betrayal of Moseneke because – and as the norm goes – if it is often the deputy (of everything) that would ultimately end up leading in whatever capacity he is presently serving. Because of this, Zuma was therefore left with no other choice hence his nomination of Mogoeng. So we should be glad that at least we have a Chief Justice. But as for the experience or lack thereof, we should get over that. I mean, where the hell do we expect him to earn that ConCourt experience anyway?

Getting back to my point…

At the time of Mogoeng’s interview – I very much wished that the same route could be followed in deciding who should be our President, that we did not have to solely rely on the National Executive Committee (of whatever ruling political party) to choose one of its politically annointed candidate to lead not only the said ruling party but the country at large. This – just like the public interview of the Chief Justice did – would, too, give us an idea as to what kind of a President will we be installing.

The challenge, of course, would be choosing the interview panel, but one suspects the panel would be sought from all opposition political parties in Parliament. In addition it would better serve those not presented in Parliament to include some academics, civil and non-profit organisations on the panel to interview the incumbent President. Given our current electoral system it is unclear whether or not we will ever reach this far-from-reach electoral system of mine. Or maybe this could be incorporated into the current one we have?

Well, only once this system – of interviewing the country’s incumbent President – has been tried-and-tested and seen to be functional and agreed to being formalised that a similar system can be adopted and rolled over to the provinces whereby a premier and his executive can be interviewed at provincial level by provincial structures while mayors and councillors can be interviewed and appointed at their respective local government levels. Especially at provincial and local government, I think this might be quite effective as local communities would no longer hide behind the excuse that their premiers, PEC, majors and councillors were imposed on them by their political parties.

This way we will get to actually see whether these people will lose their cool and temper when confronted with provincial and local government issues especially when one looks at the recent lack of service delivery protects around the country that we have seen recently and will continue to see in the nearest future.

It could work well for us but hope these leaders, including Zuma, will not lose their temper…

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