Judges' appointments and the threat to judicial independence

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This paper discusses the process of appointing judges in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Kenya. The process of appointing judges is one of the major indicators whether a country subscribes to the rule of law and democracy.

A politicised appointment process that pay lip service to merit inevitably produces judges in name only and will impact on the judiciary many years after the appointment process. It is crucial that the process be fair, transparent and merit based and enjoys public confidence.

At the end of the 18th century English philosopher John Locke, who strongly influenced the English Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1776, wrote that established laws with the right of appeal to independent judges are essential to a civilised society and that societies that do not have such a right are still “In a state of nature”. Consistent with the thinking of philosopher Locke, modern constitutional law theories often emphasise the importance of an independent judiciary as an indispensable element of the separation of powers and the rule of law.

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