2008-01-08 00:00

It is surely significant that two of South Africa’s most respected jurists — former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos — should feel it necessary to issue a joint statement warning political organisations to stop interfering in the work of South Africa’s law courts.

There have been disturbing remarks — from which Jacob Zuma, to his credit, has dissociated himself — about “blood in the courtroom” — should he be brought to court. But even Zuma himself has made the sort of statement about the “timing” of the charges against him and “conspiracies” which tend to bring the judicial process into disrepute.

The independence of the judiciary is the foundation stone of our democracy. The judges, with perhaps the antics of Cape Chief Justice John Hlope the sole exception, have done nothing to undermine its independence, integrity or reputation. The attacks upon it have come from outside.

Any suggestions that Zuma (or anyone else) will not receive a fair trial are the start of a slippery slope of which the calamitous position at the bottom, where the Zimbabwean or Pakistani judiciaries currently find themselves, is the local conclusion.

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