THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Thursday called for nominations for a vacancy on the Constitutional Court that will open up at the end of the month because Justice Johann van der Westhuizen is retiring.

Justice van der Westhuizen is one of three very senior judges due to leave the bench this year, with Supreme Court of Appeal president Lex Mpati retiring in May and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke in November.

The JSC also advertised on Thursday for two High Court deputy judges president: for the KwaZulu-Natal division and the new Limpopo division. The JSC was unable to appoint a deputy judge president for the KwaZulu-Natal division in October, despite interviewing four candidates. The JSC is also seeking to fill vacancies for ordinary judges in the KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo divisions.

Nominations close on February 12 for all the vacancies. However, the JSC has in the past had to extend the closing date for nominations to the highest court, sometimes because not enough candidates had come forward and sometimes after complaints that insufficient time had been given.

The process for the appointment of a Constitutional Court judge is different from the process followed for other judges, with the Constitution giving the president a much wider discretion on who will get the nod for the highest court.

In terms of the Constitutional Court, the JSC must recommend a list of names to President Jacob Zuma — three more than the number of vacancies; in this case, four. The president then chooses one of the four after consulting Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the leaders of political parties in Parliament.

Mr Zuma needs only to consult the JSC before deciding who will fill the vacancy left open by Justice Mpati. When Justice Moseneke retires, Mr Zuma will need to consult the JSC and party leaders. This has meant that the president nominates his preferred candidate, who is then interviewed by the JSC.

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