ConCourt assessment strange, DA says
Johannesburg - Cabinet's decision to assess the Constitutional Court's judgments was "one of the strangest proposals to date", Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts said on Thursday.
"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 ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and Deputy Correctional Services Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, and the fact that it is common knowledge that certain judgments are unpopular with the ANC," she said.
Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said earlier on Thursday that the assessment would be part of a broader look at the transformation of the judicial system and the role of the judiciary in a developmental state.
It would seek to ensure that the judiciary "conforms to the transformation mandate as envisaged in the Constitution" in terms of non-racialism, gender, disability and other transformational variables.
It would also examine access to justice on all levels of the courts, from the lower courts through to the Constitutional Court.
The third focus would be to affirm the independence of the judiciary, that of the executive and of Parliament to promote independence and the interface necessary to realise transformation goals as envisaged in the Constitution.
The assessors would also want to see whether Constitutional Court judgments were having an impact on socio-economic issues.
However, Smuts said: "Cabinet's decision to subject the judgments of the Constitutional Court to research in order to see how they have influenced inter alia socio-economic transformation must rate as one of its strangest proposals to date."
The courts were not an instrument of government policy whose output could be measured on performance indicators and other governance criteria.
"They are there to give authoritative interpretation of the Constitution and the law."
She found it difficult to believe that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe would have come up with the idea as he had consistently respected the doctrine of separation of powers.
The assessment was reminiscent of the National Planning Commission's "Vision 2030", which suggested that "progressive" judges should be appointed against the background of the country's socio-economic context.
"Will candidates have to demonstrate progressive political or economic credentials?" she asked.
Comment was not immediately available from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who leads the Constitutional Court, or from the Judicial Service Commission.