The Zanufication of the African National Congress proceeds apace. With every week that passes our governing party more closely resembles its Zanu-PF counterpart in Zimbabwe.

In an apparently co-ordinated campaign, opponents are vilified and delegitimised. It seems that at best they are unwitting dupes of imperialist Western interests, lacking appropriate revolutionary consciousness as decreed by the politburo of the South African Communist Party.

At worst they are paid agents of malevolent foreign intelligence agencies or of that well-known proxy for rapacious capitalist interests, the opposition Democratic Alliance.

For the past two years, from the moment that she turned her attention to taxpayer money spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private compound at Nkandla, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has endured a torrent of abuse. The levels of vitriol directed against her — after all, not a politician but a public servant holding an office whose functions are reverentially enshrined in the Constitution — are perhaps unmatched in SA history.

Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe last year publicly accused Madonsela of being an “enemy agent” for America’s Central Intelligence Agency. When challenged to retract and apologise or face court action, Maphatsoe had to back down, having not a shred of evidence to substantiate his slur.

The ANC learnt from this incident. Such attacks are now made under the cover of parliamentary privilege. ANC MPs last month charged the traitorous Madonsela with being “economical with the truth” and “disrespecting Parliament”.

Chillingly, it is now the judiciary that is under sustained pressure, with thinly veiled threats.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe this week lashed out on television, singling out two high court divisions for their “totally negative narrative” and basically accusing them of having a secret agenda “to create chaos” for the government. “That’s our view. We know if it doesn’t happen in the Western Cape High Court, it will happen in the Northern Gauteng.”

On Radio 702 Mantashe went further, saying that rulings against the government were a “worrisome trend” that indicated a “political judiciary”, which was interfering with the constitutional separation of executive and judicial powers.

This is a crisis that has been building slowly, in response to government being been handed reversal after reversal by the courts. What sparked Mantashe’s anger, however, is the high court ruling in favour of human rights groups, that Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir should be detained in respect of an International Criminal Court warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Such court humiliations are not, as the ANC proclaims, because the judiciary has some kind of secret agenda. They occur because this is a government that combines, in equal measure, an ignorance of the Constitution with an indifference to the rule of law.

Previously the ANC could shroud its attacks on the judiciary behind the assertion that the courts were the stronghold of old, white judges nostalgic for the days of the apartheid regime. But that will no longer wash.

The higher, supreme and constitutional courts are entirely transformed to ANC demographic strictures. It is telling that government’s defeat on the al-Bashir debacle was handed to it by a full Bench, with two of the three judges being black.

In the al-Bashir judgment, Gauteng High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo excoriates the government, warning that a democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist if the government ignores its constitutional obligations and fails to abide by court orders. He further instructs the national director of public prosecutions to investigate bringing criminal charges against the government in this regard.

“A court is the guardian of justice, the corner-stone of a democratic system based on the rule of law. If the state, an organ of state or state official does not abide by court orders, the democratic edifice will crumble stone-by-stone until it collapses and chaos ensues.

“Where the rule of law is undermined by government it is often done gradually and surreptitiously. Where this occurs … the court must fearlessly address this through its judgments, and not hesitate to keep the executive within the law, failing which it would not have complied with its constitutional obligations to administer justice to all persons alike without fear, favour or prejudice,” the judgment concludes.

The Mlambo judgment is a clarion call. It should but probably won’t be heeded by Zuma’s government, as the ANC increasingly willingly transmogrifies into Zanu-PF.

Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye


  • This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day. Follow @TheJaundicedEye.


William Saunderson-Meyer

This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day....

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