Due legal process

2009-01-15 00:00

The evidence is mounting that the ANC is finding it increasingly difficult to accept due process within the judicial system of the land. The latest sign is the decision of its parliamentary caucus, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Judge Chris Nicholson’s judgment in the case against Jacob Zuma, to bring the National Prosecuting Authority Act under review. This seems to be on the grounds that, if judges can differ so radically on the case in question, there must be something wrong with the NPA and the way it exercises its authority. It is difficult to see the connection.

What is not understood or accepted is that differing judgments are part and parcel of the checks and balances in any worthwhile judiciary. The Nicholson judgment has been taken to task by five other learned judges in the higher court as a politically charged judgment needing to be pulled back into the legal paradigm. Here is a salutary reminder to the nation that the law is methodical and precise, always dependent on proven evidence and suspicious of aberrations.

The ANC has officially said that it respects this latest judgment, yet it is turning its attention threateningly to the NPA as the legal victor. The Scorpions have been abolished on the ANC’s initiative. Vusi Pikoli, the suspended National Director of Prosecutions, has been dismissed by President Kgalema Motlanthe, giving as his reason something which went against the flow of the Ginwala Commission’s report. Parliament is poised to review this dismissal in a committee with a majority of ANC members. The outcome is predictable and, meanwhile, Pikoli’s controversial suspension of National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi remains unresolved nearly a year later.

A critical situation now exists where lip service is paid to the basic principles of democracy while, at the same time, these are undermined for party-political reasons. At the heart of this is an unwillingness on the government’s part to disclose secrets — for example, about the arms deal — and the existence of an ANC president against whom corruption charges exist and whose supporters are determined to save him whatever it costs.

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