Pretoria – Chairperson of AYO Technology Solutions, Dr Wallace Mgoqi, said he was “surprised and most honoured” by the nomination to become South Africa’s next Chief Justice, replacing the incumbent Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for South Africans to nominate the candidates to replace Mogoeng, the Restoration Foundation has nominated Mgoqi – a respected academic, a legal eagle and chairperson of AYO Technology Solutions – for the position.
“I am genuinely surprised by this nomination but most honoured to be considered for this very important post. It would, however, be my dedicated privilege to serve the people of South Africa and uphold the rule of law of this country and I gratefully accept this recommendation,” Mgoqi said on Friday.
“We have one of the most advanced Constitutions in the world and protecting it would be my sworn and paramount duty. I am appreciative of the Restoration Foundation for their commendation, and to President Ramaphosa for incepting such an inclusive process that invites public participation. It is an advancement for the democratic progression of our people.”
Earlier, the Restoration Foundation wrote to Ramaphosa, making a case for Mgoqi’s selection to the top judicial post.
“The state president invited, amongst other, non-governmental organisations working in the field of human rights to nominate candidates to be considered for the position of South Africa’s next chief justice,” the organisation said in its nomination memorandum.
“The Restoration Foundation, being such a qualifying non-governmental organisation, herewith nominates Dr Wallace Amos Mgoqi as South Africa’s next Chief Justice.”
Mgoqi is a former manager of the City of Cape Town and the former Chief Land Claims Commissioner on the Restitution of Land Rights, dealing with land claims over a period of eight years.
He is also a former commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality, as well as former acting judge of the Land Claims Court from 2014 until 2019.
“He is also a former attorney and advocate of the high court of South Africa. Furthermore, he has and continues to serve on the boards and committees of a number of prominent private and public sector companies and other entities,” the Restoration Foundation submitted.
“He holds BA Soc Science and LLB degrees, postgraduate qualifications from Harvard University (USA), the Development Lawyers Course of the International Development Law Institute in Rome (Italy) and three honorary doctorates.”
Upon completion of his legal studies at the University of Cape Town, Mgoqi joined the Legal Resources Centre, first as a fellow and later as an admitted attorney.
He practised until the beginning of 1995, then became an advocate of the Western Cape High Court.
“Whilst still in the employ of the Legal Resources Centre, he was appointed by the then provincial minister of local government as the administrator of collapsing Black Local Authorities – to administer the townships of Langa, Nyanga, Gugulethu, KTC, New Crossroads and Khayelitsha," the Foundation said.
During this period, he also became a mediator and later an arbitrator affiliated with the Independent Mediation Service of South Africa (IMSSA), where he "consciously and deliberately" used alternative dispute resolution methods and the law as instruments of social justice.
“Dr Mgoqi received the rare honour of having a community deciding to rename their settlement or suburb after him, in recognition of his commitment and self-sacrifice to their cause: Uitkyk became Wallacedene in Kraaifontein in Cape Town – which today is a thriving community of more than ten thousand people," the foundation added in motivation.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa said he had received a few names to replace Justice Mogoeng, who will be vacating his position on October 11.
The panel on the selection of the incoming chief justice includes former judge of the International Court of Justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who will act as chairperson of the panel; Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola; former minister of justice Jeff Radebe; former public protector advocate Thuli Madonsela; chair of the South African National AIDS Council Mmapaseka Steve Letsike; and Professor of Law at Howard University Ziyad Motala.
The inclusion of the public in the nomination process of a chief justice is a first for the country since the dawn of democracy as this decision was previously made by the president, after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and the leader of parties represented in the National Assembly.