9 November 2015 – Today the Presidency announced that Nonkosi Mhlantla, currently of the Supreme Court of Appeal (‘SCA’), has been appointed to the Constitutional Court of South Africa. She will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of the late Thembile Skweyiya.
Mhlantla was born in Port Elizabeth in 1964 and earned her BProc from the University of Limpopo. She has thirteen years’ experience as a judge, having been appointed to the Eastern Cape High Court in 2002. She has been on the SCA for seven years and served as an acting judge on the Constitutional Court for all of 2014. Last week she sat in the Oscar Pistorius appeal.
In July, an ALC editorial discussed the four candidates for appointment. We raised doubts about Mhlantla’s scanty record at the SCA, which included a ‘confuse[d]’ judgment that was later overturned. But, we concluded, this ‘limited track record is offset, in part, by Mhlantla’s productive time at the Constitutional Court. She was thrust into the limelight, and collegial disagreements, in a way that other acting appointees were not. Yet to her credit she seems to have remained both principled and well-liked.’ We wish her well as a permanent appointee.
Mhlantla’s appointment takes effect on 1 December, once the Court’s fourth term has ended. This means the Court will still be one judge short of its full complement this term — even after Bob Nugent’s surprise acting appointment last week. In total, the Skweyiya vacancy will have been unfilled for over eighteen months, and for seven full Court terms, despite the clear constitutional problems that presents. And it will have been over five months, and two full terms, since interviews were concluded. Serious questions remain, therefore, about the Judicial Service Commission’s and Presidency’s handling of the appointment process.