Outcry over ConCourt review surprises Zuma

2012-03-15 18:43

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma again defended the government's decision to assess how Constitutional Court rulings have impacted on the law on Thursday.

He was responding during question time in the National Assembly to Koos van der Merwe of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who wanted to know whether he envisaged a constitutional amendment to amend the power of the Constitutional Court.

Zuma said he was a bit surprised by the concerns that had been raised regarding amendments to the Constitution.

The Constitution was a "living document", meant to be reviewed annually by a committee of Parliament, he said.

The Constitution had already been amended 16 times since it was adopted in 1996. This was a "perfectly normal exercise".

"We have alluded to the fact that the kind of assessment we are to embark upon is not unusual. For example, universities and research institutions undertake research at times to evaluate the impact of jurisprudence on the lives of people," he said.

This year marked 17 years of constitutional democracy and the 15th anniversary of the Constitution.

It was an opportune time to review the capacity of the three branches of the state in carrying out their respective constitutional mandates and how their efforts had contributed to the establishment of a truly free, equal, non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous society.

"Continuous assessments, done in an open and transparent manner cannot possibly do any harm, especially given the legacy of colonial oppression and apartheid that we must eradicate."

Asked by Van der Merwe whether the ANC was planning to take South Africa back to a situation in which Parliament was supreme, instead of the Constitutional Court, Zuma said the three arms of government had very clear and distinct functions and those had to be respected.

Parliament legislated and conducted oversight, but did not interpret the laws. That was the duty of the judiciary. And the executive ran the country.

"We are not imposing or trying to change the Constitution. We are doing our duty. All we are saying is that in the process of governance we have got to come to a point where you say, let us relook at this, is it moving properly?

"We are not intending to sit every day to change the Constitution. Not at all. We would have done so if we wanted to. We have got enough majority to do so. Absolutely," Zuma said.

In any event, there was already a constitutional amendment before Parliament which amended the powers of the Constitutional Court.

The Constitution 17th amendment bill was introduced last year and, far from limiting the powers of the Constitutional Court, the bill in fact extended its jurisdiction.

One of the provisions of the bill concerned which cases could be taken on appeal from the Supreme Court of Appeal to the Constitutional Court.

At the moment, the Constitutional Court could consider appeals from the Supreme Court of Appeal that were constitutional matters, as well as issues connected with decisions on constitutional matters.

The amendment would allow the Constitutional Court to consider any appeal on the grounds that the interests of justice required that the matter be decided by the Constitutional Court.

"I am informed that deliberations on the bill are proceeding well in the justice and constitutional development portfolio committee, and that all parties are approaching the discussions with a view to arriving at the best conclusion for the administration of justice in our country," Zuma said.

- SAPA

Read more on:    ifp  |  koos van der merwe  |  jacob zuma  |  legislation  |  politics
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