The Democratic Alliance welcomes the appointment of Justice Leona Theron to the Constitutional Court Bench.
She has made a significant contribution during her career, and also on the Bench, and we are confident that she will continue the hard work in her new capacity, and contribute to the continued independence of the judiciary.
Her appointment comes on the day that the President chose to describe the judiciary as “a form of minority rule” and a “counter to democracy”.
While these statements are nothing new from the President and are yet more comments in a long line of attacks on the judiciary and their independence, the Democratic Alliance remains confident that the judiciary will remain strong in the face of such unfortunate utterances, and that Justice Theron will, along with her colleagues, jealously guard that independence.
In terms of his obligation under section 174(4) of the Constitution, President Jacob Zuma wrote to me requesting my views and input on who ought to fill the vacant seat on the Constitutional Court bench following Justice Johann van der Westhuizen’s retirement in January last year.
After a thorough selection process as per section 174(4)(a) of the Constitution, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) presented to the President a list of four candidates, of which the President must appoint one to the Constitutional Court. The four candidates are: Judge Leona Valerie Theron, Judge Stevan Arnold Majiedt, Judge Malcolm John David Wallis and, Judge Narandandram Jody Kollapen.
I have today responded in writing to his request, indicating our full support for the appointment of Madame Justice Leona Valerie Theron as our preferred candidate. The full response can be accessed here.
When considering candidates for judicial appointment, the concept of judicial independence is of utmost importance and is central to our assessment of any one candidate. To us, it is essential that appointees to the bench in South Africa observe, and demonstrate, a genuine strict independence from the Executive, from party politics, from corporate interests, from organised religion, and all other external interests.
In light of this, we believe Madame Justice Theron is the most suitable candidate. She offers significant experience, obvious legal expertise and heft, and demonstrable independence of thought and opinion. Furthermore, her appointment to the bench of the Constitutional Court will add to the gender diversity of the highest Court. We therefore have no hesitation in supporting her appointment.
Justice Theron holds BA, LLB and LLM degrees. She was admitted as an advocate in 1990 and has served various organisations, distinguishing herself as an outstanding lawyer committed to human rights. She has held academic positions at tertiary institutions and has attended the University of Georgetown in Washington DC, USA, to further her academic qualifications. She also worked at the International Labour Organisation.
She was appointed as a judge of the High Court in KwaZulu Natal in the Durban and Coast Local Division in October 1999 after acting in that position from April 1999. She was elevated to the Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2010 in which court she presently serves. She has also acted in the Constitutional Court from February 2015 to May 2015 and therefore has relevant experience in that particular court.
During the approximately eleven years she served at the High Court and the approximate five years at the Supreme Court of Appeal, she has displayed her independence as a judge and has delivered various judgments showing her ability to take leadership in human rights issues and matters relating to women.
Judge Leona Theron will bring experience, independence and gender diversity to the Constitutional Court, and in light of the above, we are of the view that her appointment would best serve the requirements of section 174(2) of the Constitution.