Thursday, September 15, 2011

ANC's view of judiciary a threat to our Constitution

15 September, 2011

The Times Editorial: Is the ANC genuinely committed to upholding South Africa's cherished Constitution, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary?

Seventeen years ago, the party of Nelson Mandela played a leading role in forging a constitutional order that made the new South Africa the envy of the world.

Our Constitution is intact today, but in recent years the ruling party, under pressure from an electorate disenchanted with corruption and the slow pace of service delivery, has been chipping away at the independent state institutions and a critical media.

The scrapping of the Scorpions, the reshaping of the National Prosecuting Authority, President Jacob Zuma's recent appointment of a chief justice not renowned for enlightened judgments, and the Protection of State Information Bill are manifestations of this.

Yesterday, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, in criticising Judge Colin Lamont's ruling in his hate-speech case, said it showed that the courts and the judiciary were "not transformed" and "if not being transformed means racist, so be it".

Malema's views could be glibly dismissed if they were not broadly shared by other senior leaders of the ruling party.

Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe warned in a recent interview that the Constitutional Court was being used as an opposition to the ANC-led government. Responding to criticism of Zuma's nomination of Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice, Mantashe said: "My view is that there is a great deal of hostility that comes through from the judiciary towards the executive and parliament, towards the positions taken by the latter two institutions. Unless this issue is addressed deliberately, it's going to cause instability."

Last week, senior ANC member Ngoako Ramathlodi claimed that opposition parties and civil society bodies were frustrating the government's transformation agenda by using the "mainly untransformed judiciary".

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