Zuma slates opposition for challenging 'majority' decisions in courts

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has lashed out at opposition parties for continuously challenging government decisions in court, saying it goes against his understanding of democracy.

The court challenges, Zuma said, hindered the government from implementing its policies.

"I have never seen such democracy," he said.

"I think these are matters we need to discuss very seriously as ANC because it is a counter to democracy – you can’t do anything."

Zuma was opening the ANC's 5th policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.  

He said whenever opposition parties were defeated in Parliament, where the ANC has a majority, they would run to the courts, "where it doesn’t have [a] majority".

Zuma’s administration has experienced a series of embarrassing defeats. In one of the most recent decisions, the High Court ruled - in a matter brought by the Democratic Alliance - that the president should provide the documents he had relied on to effect the reshuffle that sparked credit ratings downgrade. 

WATCH: Jacob Zuma opens ANC policy conference

In 2016, the court also found that Zuma had failed to uphold the Constitution when he refused to pay back the money for upgrades to his Nkandla home, as recommended by then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

"People will vote for you in majority because of programmes you present, but once your programmes are there, you try to implement them, some people take you to court; [they say] it is unconstitutional, don’t do it. 

"So that, in a sense, undermines simple logic that the majority rules and that matter is serious," Zuma said. 

"I think the bigger question is why in democracy, we have to spend money, go to courts for everything. Is that what we designed as our democracy?" Zuma asked.

'Co-governing with the courts'

The off-the-cuff comments were in sharp contrast with his prepared speech, in which he affirmed the independence of the judiciary as an indication of a functioning democracy.

In the prepared speech, he said the executive, Parliament and the judiciary were continuing to execute their tasks.

"The ANC affirms the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, and we promote respect for our courts as final arbiters in disputes in society," he read from his speech.

Recently, ANC Women’s League secretary general Meokgo Matuba, one of Zuma’s strong defenders, said the party needed to review the constitutional democracy system, as it had given the courts "too much power".

Also read: Zuma takes jabs at veterans, stalwarts at policy conference

"It is like we are co-governing with the courts as the ANC," Matuba told News24. 

Zuma accused opposition parties of "collecting more money to fight democratic issues in the court".

"The use of the courts to oppose our policies and programmes will also continue and is something we need to reflect on at this conference," he said.

"At the same time, it should concern us that the ANC-led government should have to be directed by the court to implement its own policies better. We should improve our capacity to implement our programmes, without the courts having to direct us to do so."

Listen to our politics editor Mahlatse Gallens as she speaks to South Africa's sharpest political minds.

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