GUILTY AS CHARGED: Zuma insults SA’S judiciary by saying Government is above the law
Zuma is suggesting SA’s courts have been duped into curbing the ruling party’s political
PERHAPS IT’S THE influence of Jacob Zuma’s new spokesman – the elderly Mac Maharaj – that led our President to venture into the quicksands of philosophical argument about the separation of powers when he addressed the recent Access to Justice Conference in Pretoria.
However, it’s no secret that the African National Congress is irritated by the power of South Africa’s courts to instruct it to take certain steps to rectify what the courts view to be in conflict with the Constitution. For example, there was the celebrated matter in which businessman Hugh Glenister successfully brought an action to have legislation that founded the so-called Hawks as successor to the Scorpions (sounds like a zoo) declared unconstitutional.
Glenister won his case and the Constitutional Court gave Parliament 18 months to remedy the legislation after finding Chapter 6A of the South Africa Police Service Act, as amended, was constitutionally invalid.
“The key question in this case is whether the national legislation that created the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks [DPCI], and disbanded the Directorate of Special Operations [DSO], known as the Scorpions, is constitutionally valid,” said the judgment. The majority of the court found it was not, saying: “The main reason for this conclusion is that the DPCI is insufficiently insulated from political influence in its structure and functioning.”
Quite relevant is that the disbanding of the Scorpions was a decision taken at the ANC conference in Polokwane in 2007 following lengthy attacks on the unit as it attempted to investigate corruption allegations against Zuma.
The judges held that currently the DPCI’s activities are co-ordinated by Cabinet and that the statute provides that a ministerial committee may determine policy guidelines in respect of the functioning of the DPCI, as well as for the selection of national priority offences. “This form of oversight makes the unit vulnerable to political interference.” The safeguards to prevent political influence and interference were also inadequate, the court ruled.
In his address Zuma said: “…it is our wellconsidered view that there is a need to distinguish the areas of responsibility between the judiciary and the elected branches of Government, especially with regard to Government policy formulation.” He added: “…once Government has decided on the appropriate policies the judiciary cannot, when striking down legislation or parts thereof on the basis of illegality, raise that as an opportunity to change the policies as determined by the executive area of government.”
That doesn’t make sense. There’s no evidence provided by the President that that has been the case. His is a grave insinuation, which he utterly failed to back up with evidence. Zuma’s frustration with the legal system was clear, as he remarked: “The powers conferred on the courts cannot be superior to the powers resulting from the political and consequently administrative mandate resulting from popular democratic elections. Political disputes resulting from the exercise of powers that have been constitutionally conferred on the ruling party through a popular vote must not be subverted simply because those who disagree with the ruling party politically, and who cannot win the popular vote during elections, feel other arms of the State are avenues to help them co-govern the country.”
Quite simply, Zuma is suggesting SA’s courts have been duped into curbing the ruling party’s political power by those who, having not won the battle for political power, take to the courts to subvert the Government. Can there be a worse indictment of our judges that they’d permit themselves to be so manipulated?
Zuma added insult to injury when he stated: “This (the courts enabling losing political parties to co-govern the nation) interferes with the independence of the judiciary. Political battles must be fought on political platforms.”
He needs another speech writer.