I did not try to influence the Chief Justice – Gordhan
AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
SOUTH African Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has denied that he sought to influence the appointment of a judge in a discussion, in 2016, with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Gordhan wrote to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), issued public denial and clarifcation after Mogoeng disclosed during an interview in which Judge Dhaya Pillay was being interviewed for a post on the Constitutional Court, that Gordhan had spoken to him about Judge Pillay.
Gordhan admitted talking to Mogoeng about Pilay but said he did so in passing. He denied attempting to influence the appointment of Dhaya, who at the time had been interviewed for a seat on the Supreme Court of Appeal. Dhyaya did not get the post.
Gordhan said: “I want to state emphatically that I would never, and nor did I, in any way, seek to influence the Chief Justice or the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) in the appointment of judges, whose independence I have always respected. As a member of the Executive branch of the state, I am very conscious of the fact that our democracy is based on the separation of powers and the relative independence of the judiciary, legislature and executive. Any misrepresentation, willfully or not, of the 6 April 2016 meeting with the Chief Justice, by political actors, who want to defend state capture and corruption, is highly regrettable.”
The minister said his previous engagements with Mogoeng were only in his official and professional capacity on several occasions which included:
- A meeting to discuss the recommendations of the Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
- A courtesy call after the appointment of a retired judge as Tax Ombudsman.
- A meeting to discuss the separation of the budget of the judiciary from that of the Department of Justice.
- A meeting to discuss a judgement of the Constitutiional Court which required the National Treasury to determine reasonable costs of upgrades to the residence of former president Jacob Zuma.
“As I recall, after the completion of the cordial discussion with the Chief Justice in April 2016, on the matters for which the meeting had been requested, I, in passing, did refer to Judge Dhaya Pillay’s interview with the JSC to fill the positions of the Supreme Court of Appeal. The CJ (Chief Justice) responded. I then left,” Gordhan said.
He admitted that he was a friend of Judge Pillay, who he described as a comrade and political activist of long standing.
He however denied that he met Mogoeng to discuss Judge Pillay. “The inquiry about Judge Pillay was purely incidental to the purpose of the meeting. In any event, as the Chief Justice himself indicated, the JSC, by the time I met him, ‘It was public knowledge that you (Judge Pillay) did not make it;,” the minister said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters have, on the basis of Mogoeng’s comments, laid a criminal charge of corruption against Gordhan.
According to a statement issued by the JSC, Judge Pillay did not make the shortlist for the two posts in the Constitutional Court – the highest court in SA.