Zuma talks on the powers of the judiciary and branches of state

2011-11-01 14:28

The powers conferred on the courts cannot be regarded as superior to the powers resulting from a mandate given by the people in a popular vote, President Jacob Zuma said today.

It was necessary to distinguish the areas of responsibility between the judiciary and the elected branches of the state, he told a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

The special sitting was called to bid farewell to former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, and to welcome Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

“In paying tribute to our former and current chief justice, we reiterate our firm belief in the principles of the rule of law, the separation of powers, and judicial independence,” Zuma said.

“Having said that, we also wish to reiterate our view that there is a need to distinguish the areas of responsibility, between the judiciary and the elected branches of the state, especially with regards to policy formulation.”

The executive, as elected officials, had the sole discretion to decide policies for government, he said.

The principle of separation of powers meant the encroachment of one arm of the state on the terrain of another should be discouraged, and there should be no bias in this regard.

“We respect the powers and role conferred by our Constitution on the legislature and the judiciary,” Zuma said.

“At the same time, we expect the same from these very important institutions of our democratic dispensation.”

The executive should be allowed to conduct its administration and policymaking work as freely as it possibly could.

The powers conferred on the courts could not be regarded as superior to the powers resulting from a mandate given by the people in a popular vote, Zuma said.

To provide support to the judiciary and free the courts to do their work, it would help “if political disputes were resolved politically”.

“We must not get a sense that there are those who wish to co-govern the country through the courts, when they have not won the popular vote during elections,” Zuma said.

“This interferes with the independence of the judiciary.”

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