Cape Town - “South Africa believes in the rule of law. We will always observe the rule of law.”
These were the words of Jeff Radebe, minister in the presidency, on Thursday morning, 11 days after Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir – who has been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – left South Africa despite a court order that instructed the government to keep him in the country.
“The government has no discretion [over when to comply with court orders]. We must comply with court orders,” said Radebe.
The minister was addressing the media on Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting and gave a long account of why South Africa was reviewing its participation in the International Criminal Court.
It would take several meetings with the ICC as well as attempts to make changes to the international law.
“South Africa may, as a last resort, consider withdrawing from the ICC.”
On Tuesday, during a debate on Bashir’s departure, from South Africa, Minister of Small Business Lindiwe Zulu said the Cabinet decided jointly that Bashir would not be arrested.
Radebe denied this.
Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Dunstan-Mlambo, said on Thursday in the North Gauteng High Court that democracy would crumble if the government did not obey court orders.
He “invited” the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute officials who were involved in Bashir’s escape.
In response to this judgment, secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, was quoted in the Sowetan newspaper as saying that Mlambo’s ruling was very “narrow”, “a political” judgment and amounted to a “coup”.
Asked about this, Radebe said the press conference was a forum for Cabinet, and he could not comment on Luthuli House’s affairs.
He also said the government was still studying the ruling, so he could not say whether they would take the matter further.