The decision by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to take three-and-a-half months leave is normal judicial procedure and nothing untoward, his office says.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Constitutional Court spokesperson Nathi Mncube said Regulation 3 of the Judges' Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act of 2001 provides for judges to take leave of three-and-a-half months for every period of four years' actual service.
"This leave is referred to as long leave within the judiciary. The chief justice's four-year cycle to take his long leave commenced on 1 July 2018, but he was unable to take it due to his judicial and extra-judicial commitments.
"In terms of Regulation 8 of the Judges Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act, judges' leave is not cumulative and, therefore, had Mogoeng not taken his leave, it would have been forfeited as has happened on previous occasions," said Mncube.
Mogoeng requested that Justice Sisi Khampepe be appointed as acting deputy chief justice, effective from 1 May 2021 when Mogoeng's leave began.
READ: Ramaphosa appoints Constitutional Court judge Sisi Khampepe as acting deputy chief justice
It is a normal practice for judges to take their leave whenever it is due. Mogoeng's long leave was due and he has duly taken it.
Ramaphosa appointed Khampepe because Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is not available due to his current responsibility as chair of the State Capture Inquiry.
In terms of the Superior Courts Act, Khampepe will exercise the powers and perform the functions of the chief justice.
This is not Khampepe's first time holding down the fort for Mogoeng. In November 2019, Ramaphosa appointed her to the acting role as well.
Mogoeng, whose term as chief justice officially comes to an end at the end of October, recently made headlines for his views on South Africa's foreign policy on Israel.