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Jacob Zuma defends the judiciary, or does he?

President of the ANC Jacob Zuma, when addressing students at University of Johannesburg, defended the right of free speech, indicating that the judiciary is not beyond reproach. Zuma is right that we must, as responsible citizens, hold our judicial system accountable.

He said, “It can’t be said you can’t criticise the judiciary. That is what is being said in South Africa. That is not right … But, the criticism should be fair and should be informed. That is very important … We must not jump to conclusions that the judiciary is under attack.”

But Zuma is misguided in saying that the ANC is under a flurry of attacks for its criticism of the judiciary. None of those taking a stand against the ANC are attempting to suppress the rights of its members to express their concerns about the judiciary. What they are confronting is a blatant assault on the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and attempts to intimidate the judiciary in making pronouncements that are favourable to him.

He went on to say, “Mantashe will never undermine these institutions,” in spite of the secretary general of the ANC calling the judiciary, “counter-revolutionaries.” It is unacceptable that the president of the ANC is seen to be protecting those who have vilified the judiciary under the false pretext of defending their independence and integrity.

Sasco said of the Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke after the constitutional court ruled against Zuma: “We were, however, not surprised at the ruling because actions of Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke, when he was drunk at his birthday party, had clearly expressed his utter hatred for the president of the ANC, comrade Jacob Zuma. In our view a judge doesn’t cease to be a judge because he is drunk; instead he becomes a drunk judge who, like all other drunkards, starts expressing his honest views.”

Kenny Motshegoa, the idiotic president of Cosas, joined Sasco with insults in saying constitutional court judges were “drunk with opportunism” and engaged in “evil and dangerous games”.

Zuma should undermine the intelligence of the general public who are disgusted by the relentless assault on the judiciary that they are jumping to conclusions to this fact. The idiotic statements above are not objective criticism, which he demands and defends, but unmasked attacks on the judiciary.

“I believe in a free and independent judiciary that should operate without fear or favour,” he said. How does Jacob Zuma reconcile his statement with what the Gauteng Secretary of the Young Communist League, Alex Mashilo said: “We believe the court will be sober … No sober judge will be ruling in favour of the prosecution … we will mobilise all our resources to make sure the case comes to an end.”

The deputy president of the ANC Kgalema Motlanthe recently said: “I would always be wary of doing that (attacking the judge) from a position of ignorance. But ordinary people don’t have access to that kind of information (submissions by the state claiming Zuma’s pre-trial litigation was meant to delay his trial).”

Zuma’s statements above serve to contradict publicly his deputy that there is a deliberate attack by his ardent supporters on the judiciary. Clearly it is not expected of a leader of the ANC to be contradicting a fellow senior leader in the movement.

Motlanthe was subsequently lashed out at by the ANCYL after he defended the independence of the judiciary: “A political case in our understanding can only require a political solution and not some highly questionable criminal justice system, which has persecuted our president for more than seven years. So (Motlanthe) going around affirming the independence of the criminal justice system on the case of the ANC president is worrisome.”

We expect of the leadership of the ANC to be speaking in a unified voice against the intimidation and attack on the independence and integrity of the judiciary. We expect the leadership of the ANC to be strongly condemning these thoughtless and vicious public statements against the judiciary by members of the ANC and its alliance partners, which appear to be made with consistent regularity.

It is these divisions that have mired the ANC and the country that Jacob Zuma as president of the ruling party be seen to be in charge and decisive in reigning in on miscreants within his party. It is a demonstration of resolute and decisive leadership in this instance that would inform those who remain skeptical about him to observe him favourably.

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  • Sentletse Diakanyo's blogs may contain views on any subject which may upset sensitive readers. Parental guidance is strongly advised.