Alarm at moves to check up on ConCourt

2011-11-25 11:42
Cape Town - A move by Cabinet to research the judgments of the highest court in the land has raised alarm bells, with renewed fears that judicial independence may once again be under threat.

“Given President Jacob Zuma’s [way] of putting the courts in their place, one is inclined to be suspicious about the motives,” said Professor Willem Landman, the CEO of the Ethics Institute in South Africa.

He described the proposed review as “inappropriate”.

Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said in Pretoria on Thursday that the assessment of Constitutional Court judgments would form part of a broader inquiry into transformation of the judiciary and the role of judges in a developmental state.

The government wants to establish how the Constitutional Court’s judgments have affected the lives of ordinary South Africans and influenced socio-economic transformation and judicial reform.

This would be done by appointing a research institute to assess the Constitutional Court’s decisions. Further details will be made public next week.

Monitoring of court decisions

However, Landman noted that the court’s findings do not in themselves have any effect on people’s lives, except if the executive chooses to give effect to them. “Then, and only then, can impact be evaluated,” he said.

Manyi added that the government wants an appropriate framework to be established to ensure regular monitoring of how court decisions are being implemented by all government departments. It is also necessary to ensure greater access to justice.

The Cabinet statement comes in the wake of Zuma’s recent remarks to Parliament that the judiciary must respect the separation of powers and should not make policy.

Senior ANC leaders, including secretary general Gwede Mantashe and party chief whip Mathole Motshekga, are among those who have criticised what they believe are judgments by an activist court that have strayed into the policy domain of the executive.

Recent appointments to the court also point to a more executive-minded judiciary.

DA MP Dene Smuts described cabinet’s move as “one of the strangest proposals to date”.

“It will inevitably be seen as a sinister attempt to bend the Bench to the executive and the ruling party’s will, especially given the recent spate of hostile comment from such persons as … Gwede Mantashe and the deputy minister of Correctional Services, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, and the fact that it is common knowledge that certain judgments are unpopular with the ANC,” she said.

What is behind it

Professor Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert at the University of Cape Town, said if the motive is based on the belief that the court is interfering with the executive and legislative authority, then Cabinet’s decision is absurd.

“Everything depends on what is behind it. Thus far the judiciary has diligently applied the Constitution, unlike the executive and the legislative authorities.”

Former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler, who is also chairperson of the organisation Freedom Under Law, said it is striking that “assisting and protecting the independence, impartiality, accessibility and efficiency of the courts apparently does not need any attention”.

JSC spokesperson Dumisa Ntsebeza could not be reached for comment, while Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was also unavailable.

Check out the Samsung Galaxy S3

Read more on:    judiciary  |  politics

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

/Oscar Pistorius

6 impressive camping tips

Check out these great tips that will make your camping experience so much better!


Where were you when you last felt alive?

Free outdoor yoga classes
Watch: 5 skills to improve your BMX riding
Action camera for all occasions
Tips on how to set your fitness goals

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is an easy social flow and the need to blend in, yet you may not feel entirely comfortable. Something beneath the more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.