Nzimande slams 'judicial dictatorship'
Charl Du Plessis, City Press
Johannesburg - South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande has warned against the dangers of South Africa becoming a “judicial dictatorship”.
In an interview with City Press, Nzimande, who is also the higher education minister, criticised parts of a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal, which set aside President Jacob Zuma's appointment of Menzi Simelane as head of the national prosecuting authority (NPA).
According to him, a statement in the judgment went “too far”.
Nzimande is the latest tripartite-alliance leader to criticise the judiciary.
He referred to a portion in the unanimous judgment, written by Judge Mahomed Navsa, which agrees with the Democratic Alliance’s submission to the court that there “has to be a real and earnest engagement with the requirements” by the president when he appoints the prosecutions boss.
Navsa wrote: “Having regard to what is stated in earlier paragraphs about the importance of the NPA and the office of the NDPP (national director of public prosecutions), it is the least that ‘we the people’ can expect.”
Not the people
Nzimande lashed out at this sentence, saying: “The judiciary is not the people, the judiciary is supposed to perform its role without fear or favour - that is going too far.”
Nzimande said that the “day the judiciary tries to substitute itself into the principle of ‘the people shall govern’, it runs the risk of losing the respect of the people”.
He also took aim at the final paragraphs of Navsa’s judgment, in which the judge was critical of arguments made by Zuma’s lawyers that the president was the “people’s choice” and had the right to exercise a value judgment.
In dealing with whether the court had “subverted the popular will” by subjecting Zuma’s decision to scrutiny, Navsa quoted extensively from a speech made by former Chief Justice Ismail Mahomed in 1997.
He said Mahomed’s sentiments, that the legislature has no mandate to make laws which transgress the powers it has in terms of the Constitution, are “beyond criticism and apply equally when actions or decisions by the executive are set aside”.
But Nzimande said this was tantamount to saying the judiciary cannot be subjected to public criticism and warned that there was “no democratic order in some kind of country that is subjected to a judicial dictatorship”.
Nzimande said the judiciary was being abused by those with access to money and accused them of attempting to “rule from the grave”.
Referring to legal groups and opposition parties, Nzimande said there was a “co-ordinated liberal offensive ...by people who do not have power to seek to challenge almost any decision by the president and the executive”.
He also said the SACP supported an assessment of the Constitutional Court, recently announced by Cabinet, and said it should include both an audit of decisions by judges as well as the gender and racial composition of the justice system in South Africa.