President Cyril Ramaphosa has strongly defended the judiciary, saying attacks against it should not be taken lightly, as they shake the foundation of South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
He also took a swipe at his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, noting defiance of the courts "weakens our constitutional democracy", reports Legalbrief. His comments in his weekly newsletter, From the Desk of the President, come against the backdrop of attacks against the judiciary by former President Zuma, who has defied an order by the Constitutional Court, and EFF leader Julius Malema, who raised unsubstantiated allegations of bribery of judges in Parliament.
"Unless supported by evidence, such claims undermine confidence in our courts, and weaken our constitutional order," Ramaphosa said.
According to a BusinessLIVE report, he said in all actions regard needed to be taken of section 165(3) of the Constitution, which says that no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts. "We interfere with the functioning of our courts and weaken the rule of law when we attack the judiciary. Our failure to implement our courts’ injunctions weakens our constitutional democracy."
Ramaphosa said South Africans should be concerned when those who occupy prominent positions in society make statements that demonstrate a disdain for the basic principles of the Constitution and the institutions established to defend our democracy. He also noted some judges were accused, without evidence, of pursuing interests other than the cause of justice. Judges have been accused of political agendas and some have even been accused of accepting bribes.
Ramaphosa said that those claims were deeply disturbing, because, if such claims were true, it would mean that there are some within the judiciary who are failing to uphold the values and principles with which they have been entrusted. But, points out the president, the Constitution then made provision for what to do, as the National Assembly can remove judges who are found guilty of gross misconduct by the JSC.
The BusinessLIVE report notes neither Zuma, who has directly attacked Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, and the apex court, nor Malema, who made allegations in broad terms, have laid any complaints against any judge at the JSC.
"Anyone who has evidence of any wrongdoing by any judge should make use of the avenues provided in our Constitution and in our law to ensure that appropriate action is taken," Ramaphosa said.