On Saturday, President Cyril Ramaphosa named commissioners to the beleaguered Commission for Gender Equality.
This comes as Corruption Watch warns that if Ramaphosa appoints the commissioners who were allegedly shortlisted in a defective process conducted by the portfolio committee on women, youth, and persons with disabilities last year, he may face a judicial challenge.
According to the president, Ramaphosa appointed a new chairman, Advocate Olave Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale, on a full-time basis from March 1 2023 to February 28 2028, in accordance with section 3 (9) of the Commission for Gender Equality Act 1996 (Act No. 39 of 1996) as modified.
Other commissioners were:
* Advocate Thando Gumede as a full-time member of the commission with effect from March 1 2023 to December 31 2027.
* Bongani Glenton Ngomane as a part-time member of the commission with effect from March 1 2023 to February 28 2028.
* Leelambal (Prabashni) Subrayan Naidoo as a part-time member of the commission with effect from March 1 2023 to February 28 2028.
* Leonashia Leigh- Anne van der Merwe as a part-time member of the commission with effect from March 1 2023 to February 28 2028.
According to the presidency: “The president wishes the newly appointed members of the commission well in their work and roles.”
On Friday, questions were made to Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, about the letter delivered to the president by Corruption Watch last year, but no response was received.
According to a letter dated December 16 2022 issued to Ramaphosa by Power Singh Incorporated on behalf of Corruption Watch, the firm pointed to prior correspondence submitted to Ramaphosa on November 25, 2022, and a response from his office on November 29 2022.
“As you are aware, we have previously raised concerns about irregularities in the appointment process,” the letter added.
Similar concerns, according to Corruption Watch, were expressed with the committee, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and Ramaphosa’s office throughout the appointment process.
The letter said, “Our concerns noted three procedural irregularities in the appointment process, which undermined meaningful public participation.”
* That the public was not provided with a reasonable opportunity to participate because the committee only provided 10 working days for the submission of public comments on the 24 shortlisted candidates. This, Corruption Watch said, was insufficient to allow the public to appropriately consider and review candidates; and
* That the committee provided insufficient information on the shortlisted candidates as the public was provided with an Excel spreadsheet with names and qualifications of candidates without CVs.
Corruption Watch stated that the committee claimed they were banned under the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. According to the organisation, this information was insufficient to make educated decisions regarding the candidates.
The letter specified, “Specifically, the public was unable to interrogate whether each candidate had a track record of a commitment to gender equality, which was one of the requirements for the appointment.”
The organisation also claimed that the committee’s submission method impeded meaningful participation.
“The public’s submissions were required to be made through an online form that had a 2000-character limit. Our client contends that this arbitrary limitation curtailed the public’s ability to submit adequate submissions,” the letter mentioned.
If the commissioners’ final appointment is made without correcting the alleged procedural errors, Corruption Watch believes they will face legal challenges. According to the organisation, such a difficulty might impede the commission’s capacity to work efficiently.
The letter further mentioned, “It is accordingly vital that it be appropriately constituted and that its appointment processes are constitutionally compliant and conducted correctly.”
The organisation, therefore, advised Ramaphosa to consider appointing commissioners in an acting capacity until the identified procedural faults were corrected.
According to the organisation, this may allow the commission to continue operating while a fresh appointment process is completed and finalised. Ramaphosa’s response was due by December 23, 2022.
Corruption Watch’s head of legal and investigations, Nicki van ‘t Riet, stated on Friday that they had expressed concerns about irregularities in the nomination process for the outstanding commissioner vacancies as early as July 18.
She stated that she shared her concerns with the committee, Mapisa-Nqakula, and Ramaphosa’s office. “We received a response from the committee, which put forward its own explanations and justifications,” Van ‘t Riet said.
She said that the recommendation to have acting commissioners while procedural concerns were resolved was made in the spirit of the commission’s critical role in the country’s battle against gender inequity and gender-based violence.
Van ‘t Riet said, “The approach taken by Corruption Watch recognises that the quorum of the commission is critical for it to be able to perform its function; that it is vital that it be appropriately constituted; that its appointment processes are constitutionally compliant and conducted correctly.”
According to Van ‘t Riet, they received an acknowledgement of receipt from Ramaphosa’s office, but the response did not address the issues substantively.
She stated that the organisation had been waiting for Ramaphosa to take the steps he felt appropriate, such as appointing acting appointments while correcting procedural issues in making final commissioner nominations.
“We did indicate to the president that should he elect the latter course, that it could make the appointment open to a challenge in the courts. We advised the president in our letter that we are available to discuss this matter further with him. He has not taken us up on the offer. We, therefore, await his decision,” she said.