Acting KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Isaac Madondo has 14 months to go before retiring from the bench, but believes the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should still recommend him for an appointment.
Madondo is expected to retire in November 2023.
The judge and two others are competing for the position of judge president in the province.
During the interview, the chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya, said the National Association of Democratic Lawyers had raised a concern that Madondo only had a few months to serve. The association said the JSC may have to "ponder whether it is not in the interest of a judicial system for a younger candidate to ascend to the position".
Madondo said the remaining time was "adequate" for him to accomplish what he needed to.
"There is no law, principle or rule which says if a judge has so much time remaining before retirement, he/she cannot make himself/herself available for a management position. There is nothing on that. Even the advert is silent on that. This is not an entry-level post. It is a continuous management post," he said.
He listed the names of judges who were appointed when they were close to retirement. He said he still wanted to empower other people and, whatever the JSC wanted to do, it should be in the interest of the division.
One of the commissioners, Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu, asked Madondo whether it would be possible for the judge to "show your true leadership when a woman ascends to the position while you are still there. For me, it says you are really a true leader. I understand that you are worried they will not listen to you. Don't you think it will be in the best interest to let them ascend while you are still there?"
Madondo said he was "puzzled" by the need to, at this point in time, appoint someone new, when it could be done in the future.
"If the commission sees it in that fashion, but I cannot say anything. As much as I need these people to take over, let's prepare them. Let's give them credibility and acceptance.
"Let us not push them in because there is a shortage of women… they must be free, and they must be proud of their position. That is what I am trying to do. If that is not the appropriate way, I will leave that to the commission," he said.
Madondo told the JSC it was not "automatic" that a deputy judge president would be appointed as the judge president, but it was something that was "expected".
Another member of the JSC, Mvuzo Notyesi, asked: "This theory of a deputy taking over, which seemingly in KZN you seem to elevate it to some form of principle, where is it based? Is it not that the JSC is guided in the appointment of judicial officers, including the leaders of the judiciary, by the Constitution?"
Madondo said that he did not say it was a principle, but it was something that was "expected".
Notyesi asked Madondo whether the JSC should be concerned that there was currently no female judge president in the country.
"We have a situation in the country where we don't have any woman appointed as a JP... there is a vacancy that is created, you have a candidate who is about to retire [referring to Madondo]…you have women who are availing themselves for the position.
"Should the JSC take into account all those factors in deciding on this position? Would you encourage the JSC to take into account those factors?" Notyesi asked.
Madondo said he would encourage the JSC to do so, but it should not be "purely for the agenda".
He said he should be allowed to "accomplish what I have set out to do".
The interviews continue.