ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has taken aim at two courts that he accuses of having a negative attitude towards the government. Speaking during an interview with M-Net’s Carte Blanche, Mantashe lashed out at the North Gauteng High Court and the Western Cape High Court. “There is a drive in sections of the judiciary to create chaos for governance; that’s our view,” he said. “We know if it doesn’t happen in the Western Cape High Court, it will happen in the Northern Gauteng – those are the two benches where you always see that the narrative is totally negative and create a contradiction.” Mantashe was speaking in reaction to the ruling by the North Gauteng High Court to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Last week, a full bench of some of the country’s most senior judges – including Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba and Judge Hans Fabricius – ruled that the South African authorities had a duty to arrest Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the ruling was subverted because the government had already assisted the Sudanese leader to flee from the country – flying in the face of an earlier ruling by the same court that Bashir should not be allowed to leave the country until the court had made a final ruling. But Mantashe has defended the government’s decision to assist Bashir to evade justice, suggesting that the court was acting against the interests of the state. “You have South Africa hosting [the African Union] summit, you say, ‘Arrest a head of state.’ Obviously when you take that decision you are contradicting the interest of the state versus judiciary,” he said. “People forget that in this country we took a decision, consciously, not to arrest leaders of the apartheid regime … Why would the judiciary today want to relegate South Africa into a pariah state on the continent?” Today, former Constitutional Court justice Johann Kriegler hit back, describing Mantashe’s comments as “politically unwise”. “Attacks on judiciary is in no one’s interest – not in the country’s interest and not [in the] ruling party’s interest,” Kriegler said. Kriegler was speaking in his capacity as chair and spokesperson for Freedom Under Law, a civil society group established to promote respect for the rule of law. “We know full well that in the Bashir issue the government went with political expedience instead of rule of law,” Kriegler said. “To use that as a stalking horse for attacking the judiciary is unwise.” Kriegler said Mantashe’s comments were not only an attack on the judiciary as a whole but on the integrity of the individuals who occupy the bench. While the North Gauteng High Court has come under fire from the ANC for the judges’ ruling in the Bashir matter, the Western Cape High Court has come under fire from alliance partners for Judge Lee Bozalek’s ruling that it was not unparliamentary for Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema to say that “the ANC government massacred workers in Marikana”. In response, Higher Education Minister Blaze Nzimande said that “sections of the judiciary tend to somehow overreach into areas that one would expect even in a constitutional state to tread very, very carefully”. Both the ANC and the justice department were approached for comment but did not respond to questions.