Judicial officers are appointed in terms of section 174 of the Constitution. The Constitution provides that the President must appoint the judges of all the other courts (Supreme Courts of Appeal, High Court etc.), except the constitutional court, on the advice of the Judicial Services Commission (“JSC”).
Two essential criteria appear from the provisions of section 174, these being that a person must be ‘appropriately qualified’ and ‘a fit and proper person’ to be a judge. These can be regarded as essential or necessary criteria in the sense that a person who is not appropriately qualified or is not a fit and proper person may not be appointed as a judicial officer. A candidate must have studied law, and became an advocate, attorney or a magistrate. In very rare circumstances a candidate coming from academia may be appointed as a judge, this is because they are seldom appointed as acting judges and often lack experience of legal practice if they have only been in academia.
Those candidates seeking permanent appointment as judges must submit their applications to the JSC. The JSC will shortlist candidates who will be interviewed for the permanent position of a judge. There are no criteria for judicial appointment referred to in the JSC process, and the interviews vary widely in length and the questions that are asked.
After the interview, if a candidate gets a majority of votes in the JSC, which is usually 13 votes, the candidate will be nominated by the JSC for the appointment by the President. The President will make the final decision to appoint the nominated candidate in the position of a permanent Judge.