Simelane ruling 'a setback for Zuma'
Johannesburg - Newspaper editorials on Friday saw the ruling against Menzi Simelane's appointment as prosecution head as an embarrassing setback for President Jacob Zuma.
They concluded the ruling would negatively impact Zuma's alleged disregard for judiciary procedure, and his effort to appoint trusted allies into positions of power.
The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein ruled on Thursday that the appointment of Simelane as head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2009 was invalid.
It found Zuma had failed to "apply his mind properly" because he ignored concerns raised about Simelane's integrity.
Allies and comrades
The Times wrote the ruling was significant and embarrassing because it followed Zuma's recent appointment of close ally Willem Heath to head the Special Investigating Unit.
"It is Zuma's prerogative to appoint allies and trusted comrades... but in a constitutional democracy such as ours he simply cannot play fast and loose with state institutions whose independence is underpinned but the supreme law of the land," it wrote.
Business Day said the ruling would impact Zuma's "single-minded effort to surround himself with people he can trust to ensure he never has to account for his past actions.
"There is a gaping hole in the fortress he has put effort into erecting around himself and closing it with someone else who can be relied upon will not be as easy as it initially seems," it wrote.
It said Zuma was unconcerned with the legality of his executive decisions.
"They are merely a means to an end, that end being his [Zuma's] political survival."
It said the overturning of Zuma's decisions by courts had resulted in friction between the executive and judiciary.
"The message from the Zuma administration is clear: it has been democratically elected and should be left to govern as it sees fit, without interference from the judiciary."
The Mail and Guardian saw the ruling as the court's response to escalating political attacks on the role of the judiciary.
"The basic thrust of [Zuma's] argument is crude and clear: the majority party and its president were chosen by the people and that mandate is a grant of authority that ought to supersede all else," the editorial reads.
"The idea that underpins these propositions is that the Constitution represents a compromise by the ANC, a surrender of both power and principle at the negotiating table that should now be reversed."
It said the proposition was "a falsification of history" because the ANC's own team insisted on the deep, rights-based structure of the law during constitutional negotiations.
According to the Citizen Simelane was appointed because he was willing to bow to the will of the executive.
"Yesterday's ruling seriously rattles Zuma's cage. If it stands, it could make him vulnerable again.
"The situation is dire. Because Zuma has acted in his own interests and not those of the country, we have a hobbled prosecuting authority."
On Thursday, the justice ministry said Simelane would not vacate the post he had occupied for the past two years, pending a review of the ruling by the Constitutional Court.
"Advocate Simelane does not immediately have to vacate his post until the Constitutional Court hears the matter and decides whether to confirm the ruling or not," justice ministry spokesperson Tlali Tlali said.
The position is based on section 167(5) of the Constitution, which gives the country's highest court the final say on whether a law or act of the president is unconstitutional. A court ruling in this regard therefore has no force until it is confirmed by the Constitutional Court.