To my mind
AN OBSESSION with race and gender is still evident in several spheres of civil society. But at least we’re seeing flickers of realism here and there.
There were attempts recently, from within and without, by those obsessed with race and gender to tamper with the integrity of South Africa’s judiciary.
From within, it was evident in several unpleasant incidents involving raceobsessed Cape Judge President John Hlophe. In the most recent case he was accused of trying to influence the Constitutional Court in the Jacob Zuma case. That he succeeded in (for the time being) squirming out of being tried in court by objecting because court proceedings went ahead in his absence – after he was reportedly too ill to attend – ironically scored points for the legal system.
Much more worrying than the antics of Hlophe, who was suddenly struck down by illness, are the claims from outside the judiciary by new Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who when Minister of Transport became more renowned for his verbosity than for his actions. He now has much to say about candidates being considered for four posts in the Appeal Court. According to a statement by the Judicial Services Commission, Radebe said he needed time for “the enhancement of the independence of the judiciary and the vital question of the transformation of the judiciary in terms of the Constitution with regard to race and gender representation”.
It’s astounding the man misses the irony of the matter. His intervention in the selection process – the commission had to postpone planned interviews with Judges Ronnie Bosielo (from Gauteng), Erich Leach (from the Eastern Cape) and Bennie Griesel (from the Cape division) – is precisely a threat to the independence of the judiciary.
The honourable minister later indicated he wasn’t that unhappy with the representation of the sexes in the judiciary, but that racial representation required attention. No word about the best man – or woman – for the job.
It’s reassuring that President Jacob Zuma stated a day later in Parliament that he’d act in the best interests of SA when he exercised his powers to appoint judicial officers and that transforming the judiciary wasn’t intended to undermine its independence.
The same kind of obsession with gender and racial equality led to the absurd outburst against Helen Zille in the Western Cape. Under the leadership of Tony Ehrenreich, the ANC is continuing with its ridiculous threats because Zille hasn’t appointed any women to her Western Cape provincial cabinet. Once again, no word about the best woman – or man – for the job.
Just as unrealistic as harping on about racial and gender equality are the demands by Cosatu that the SA Reserve Bank must dump inflation targeting and drastically lower interest rates. Such unrealistic views – plus the attendant threats of disruptive strikes – are clear signs of ignorance and a total disregard for reality. One ray of hope is Gwede Mantashe, who has at least – for the time being – calmed down impetuous Cosatu secretary-general Zwelenzima Vavi and his henchmen.
Equally preposterous was the overhasty decision not only to allow Zimbabweans to enter SA without visas but also to allow them to work here for 90 days. That concession was one of the decisions made by the former disastrous Minister of Home Affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, shortly before the election.
Just when it seemed as if former Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana DlaminiZuma was exercising better judgement in her new portfolio at Home Affairs and that reality was starting to hit home, she denied having the ruling reviewed.
One can only hope that in many other spheres, such as the workings of monetary and fiscal policy and the need for a truly independent judiciary, reality will indeed finally triumph over narrow ideological ideals with potentially destructive consequences for SA’s democracy.