Check your words, Mr President
DURING HIS KEYNOTE address at an inaugural three-day conference aimed at bringing together the three levels of government – the legislature, executive and judiciary – the President of the Republic of South Africa uttered words which set off alarm bells! He said the powers of the courts can’t be superior to those of elected Government officials. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the common view about our current constitutional model is that both the executive and judicial structures are on a par, with a system of checks and balances creating a scenario whereby one or more structures can’t abuse its Constitutiongiven power(s).
The judiciary has the power to strike down any legislation the executive makes that doesn’t comply with the supreme law of the country – SA’s 1996 Constitution. Jacob Zuma’s comments resonate those of a bygone era, where the executive manipulated the then constitution to archive the passing of legislation that trampled on basic human rights – a renaissance we don’t need.
Economically, this being a great period for SA’s economy (with a cemented seat in the BRIC group of emerging countries accomplished) politicians should watch what they say. Any policy aspirations that seek to overlook the Constitutional Court’s power can only be a blow to the robustness of the country and which could ultimately ripple into the promising African continent with catastrophic consequences. Thus a strong stance on the unification of both the executive and judiciary (without one trying to override the other) will only strengthen our already world-revered constitutional tolerance. So Mr President, next time you make a speech, please give your citizens something to calm already jittery nerves.