See Zuma comments in context - presidency
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's comments on the Constitutional Court's powers must be viewed in the context of a decision the Cabinet took last year, the presidency said on Monday.
It said the decision was to do an assessment on the impact of Constitutional Court judgments on the transformation of South Africa's society since it had gained democracy.
"The exercise is with a view to assess the transformative nature of jurisprudence from the highest court in the land in promoting an equal, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society," said the presidency.
"This must therefore not be viewed as an attempt by government to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law which are entrenched in our Constitution."
It said the assessment fell within the mandate of formulating and reviewing government policies to advance the transformative character of the Constitution.
"This is a positive move that ought to be welcomed by all who look up to the Constitutional Court as the champion of our jurisprudence reform."
On Monday, the Star newspaper reported that Zuma wanted to review the Court's powers.
"We don't want to review the Constitutional Court, we want to review its powers," Zuma said during an interview.
"It is after experience that some of the decisions are not decisions that every other judge in the Constitutional Court agrees with."
According to the newspaper, the issue was raised by a deputy minister and ANC leaders at the party's national executive committee meeting two weeks ago and was discussed by Cabinet ministers.
Zuma told the newspaper it was a "general societal issue" that was being raised.
He questioned the logic of having split judgments and said judges were being influenced by the media.
"How could you say that [the] judgment is absolutely correct when the judges themselves have different views about it?" Zuma told the newspaper.
He said that if decisions by Parliament could be challenged, there was nothing wrong with questioning the judiciary.
On Monday, Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts called on Zuma to clarify his remarks.
"President Zuma will find that he is on the path to a full-blown confrontation with the Constitutional Court if his remarks really mean what they seem to mean, because the court itself decides the constitutionality of constitutional amendments," Smuts said in a statement.
"It is apparent from the President's remarks that irritation with some of the court's judgements lies at the root of the desire for review."