The Role of the Chief Justice in Commonwealth Africa: a comparative study of South Africa, Ghana and Kenya
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This is a comparative study of the leadership role of the Chief Justice as head of the judiciary through a decade of change, up to 2009, in South Africa, Ghana and Kenya. It draws on a conceptual framework developed from Burns’s theory of transformational leadership and the “dynamics of the leadership process”, and other scholarship on leadership ethics. The constitutional, legal and political structures surrounding the office of Chief Justice are analysed alongside empirical data gathered from interviews. It addresses three main questions. How do we understand the leadership role of the Chief Justice in Africa? How is this role evolving? What consequences does the distinction between “judicial” and “administrative” functions have for leadership in the judiciary? The study finds, first, that the leadership role of the Chief Justice includes intellectual leadership, administrative leadership, and acting as the representative of the judiciary. Second, the role of the Chief Justice is shifting from one of headship to one of leadership: Chief Justices are expected to be the visible, accountable leaders of the third arm of government. Third, recognising the Chief Justice as leader of the third arm of government raises questions about the usefulness of retaining the distinction between judicial and administrative functions to divide responsibility for court administration between the judiciary and executive. For Chief Justices to lead effectively, they must be free to make decisions on all matters relating to the operation of the judiciary. This need not require immersion in the daily minutiae of court administration. Instead, practices in South Africa and Ghana suggest that leadership could involve collaborating with, delegating to and consulting relevant “constituents” of the Chief Justice’s leadership. This would be consistent with a transformational leadership approach, which it is here argued is the most appropriate form of leadership for the judiciary.
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