Alarm at moves to check up on ConCourt

2011-11-25 11:42

Cape Town - A move by Cabinet to research the judgments of the highest court in the land has raised alarm bells, with renewed fears that judicial independence may once again be under threat.

“Given President Jacob Zuma’s [way] of putting the courts in their place, one is inclined to be suspicious about the motives,” said Professor Willem Landman, the CEO of the Ethics Institute in South Africa.

He described the proposed review as “inappropriate”.

Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said in Pretoria on Thursday that the assessment of Constitutional Court judgments would form part of a broader inquiry into transformation of the judiciary and the role of judges in a developmental state.

The government wants to establish how the Constitutional Court’s judgments have affected the lives of ordinary South Africans and influenced socio-economic transformation and judicial reform.

This would be done by appointing a research institute to assess the Constitutional Court’s decisions. Further details will be made public next week.

Monitoring of court decisions

However, Landman noted that the court’s findings do not in themselves have any effect on people’s lives, except if the executive chooses to give effect to them. “Then, and only then, can impact be evaluated,” he said.

Manyi added that the government wants an appropriate framework to be established to ensure regular monitoring of how court decisions are being implemented by all government departments. It is also necessary to ensure greater access to justice.

The Cabinet statement comes in the wake of Zuma’s recent remarks to Parliament that the judiciary must respect the separation of powers and should not make policy.

Senior ANC leaders, including secretary general Gwede Mantashe and party chief whip Mathole Motshekga, are among those who have criticised what they believe are judgments by an activist court that have strayed into the policy domain of the executive.

Recent appointments to the court also point to a more executive-minded judiciary.

DA MP Dene Smuts described cabinet’s move as “one of the strangest proposals to date”.

“It will inevitably be seen as a sinister attempt to bend the Bench to the executive and the ruling party’s will, especially given the recent spate of hostile comment from such persons as … Gwede Mantashe and the deputy minister of Correctional Services, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, and the fact that it is common knowledge that certain judgments are unpopular with the ANC,” she said.

What is behind it

Professor Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert at the University of Cape Town, said if the motive is based on the belief that the court is interfering with the executive and legislative authority, then Cabinet’s decision is absurd.

“Everything depends on what is behind it. Thus far the judiciary has diligently applied the Constitution, unlike the executive and the legislative authorities.”

Former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler, who is also chairperson of the organisation Freedom Under Law, said it is striking that “assisting and protecting the independence, impartiality, accessibility and efficiency of the courts apparently does not need any attention”.

JSC spokesperson Dumisa Ntsebeza could not be reached for comment, while Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was also unavailable.

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  • fishycraig - 2011-11-25 11:52

    Isn't the anc happy that they are in government? Do they really need to try every single way possible to stay in power? Oh yes, they do I suppose.

      Pieter - 2011-11-25 13:53

      MR EDITOR. Why are you deleting my comments....Is there a anc cabinet minister standing behind you with a sjambok???????

      Spyker - 2011-11-25 15:23

      A message to NEWS24's editor.., Albert Einstein said: THIS WORLD WILL NOT BE DESTROYED BY THOSE WHO DO EVIL, BUT BY THOSE WHO WATCH THEM WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING. I to, would like to know, why a number of comments were removed..?

      Heinrich - 2011-11-25 19:08

      Mr Editor : Some questions have been put to you. Kindly respond. It will also be appreciated if you could display the names of your staff who are empowered to remove comments, at the top of the page, together with their contact details. Another civilized touch would be to provide reasons for removal of the comment, in the original space of that comment.

  • John - 2011-11-25 11:57

    What's the betting that these "reviews" of the Con Court are to make sure that there are no hiccups in passingthe secrecy bill?

  • Shirley - 2011-11-25 11:59

    This is just another stepping stone for them to destroy every hope of a free society! What befuddles me is are there no economists in government who have realised what all these under handed moves of late are doing to our economy,the rand and investors are very uneasy. Not a very intellegent move unless they all just plan to live off the nationalised mines and "reclaimed homes and Land"

      Malcolm - 2011-11-25 12:29

      @Shirley. Thank goodness for the DA fighting against the under handed moves of these dictators ruining the country; for without the DA we are fish-fodder. There was only one honourable man in government but he left; his name was Nelson. This government has utter disregard for minorities; they even feel it necessary to force Black Empowerment down our throats to protect themselves against a tiny 7% minority group. How scared and cowardly are they? Surely they can’t be so worthless and incompetent as to be incapable of creating their own livelihood. Instead, they force BEE’s against our will, into our boardrooms with hefty salaries to carry briefcases, talk on cellphones and scoff lunches.

  • H - 2011-11-25 12:01

    Political office bearers all swear an oath to uphold the constitution. When they start attacking the constitution, they are guilty of treason, in my opinion.

      Malcolm - 2011-11-25 12:37

      H, have you seen evidence of any oaths being upheld? I haven't!!

      H - 2011-11-25 12:43

      Malcolm, unfortunately we see the same thing, in this regard. So sad that we have come to this low ebb.

  • ivan.coetzee2 - 2011-11-25 12:09

    And the ANC just keeps on greasing that already slippery slope SA is on!!

      Albert - 2011-11-25 12:18

      I think JZ is running scared.I think the day of reckoning has arrived.

  • Anakin - 2011-11-25 12:18

    The constitutional court cannot be 'viewed' as yet another 'government department' that must obey the wishes of the ruling (ANC) executive. To my mind,the constitutional court is the last resort for the underdog seeking fair justice as well as to uphold our freedom of speech and associated values. And exactly who is going to pay for the appointing of a "research" institute to "assess the Constitutional Court’s decisions"? More & more wasted $$$ for nothing. Also the phrase "judicial reform" is highly questionable-when will it be deemed to be appropriately "reformed"? We all know the answer to that one. Another snake is now in the long grass.

  • Richard - 2011-11-25 12:26

    If I knew then what I know now I most definitely would not have voted yes in the 1992 referendum.

  • Clarissa - 2011-11-25 12:27

    They tamper because of the Secrecy Bill. It is very strange that two days after the bill was passed in parliament they now want to tune the CC court... They know the media houses will fight untill the fat lady sings and I think this is why they are messing around here to ensure once the bill is challenged in the CC court it will definatly be passed! It makes sense to me.

  • Lynn - 2011-11-25 12:31

    I Think there is a dictator in the making here. This is Very scary. It is time for all freedom loving people to stand up to this lot of lunatics

  • Marc - 2011-11-25 12:32

    Come on. The ANC knows full well that the secrecy Bill saga is going to shift to the Constitutional Court. They can't be SEEN to meddle in Concourt, so they come up with this little move to scare the court into submission. Zuma already put Moegoeng in there; but just in case that is not enough ... Probably there's been some inquiry by Moegoeng about Concourt's history of judgments, in order to get it into "order". They've defended their integrity. But because he's an intellectual lightweight, he's called on his handlers in the Party to help him out. This is just my own conjecture, but given what goes on in government I think it's more than plausible.

  • Larry - 2011-11-25 12:59

    Everything that the ANC touches is under threat. They can not rest until they have full control of everything, with the secrecy to do what they want, without us Bunnies knowing about it.

  • Vince.York - 2011-11-25 13:05

    Investment has abruptly WITHERED on the arrival of this rather weird, odd, peculiar little puppy doggy, needing another little tidbit? Just a touch of sugar here and a bit of bloody meat on a bone there? SA's very own 'Conned Court" by chance.

  • djmain1 - 2011-11-25 13:12

    Forward to fascism!!! Sieg heil cANCer, sieg heil!

  • SNG62 - 2011-11-25 13:33

    Time to stop whining & mobilise to vote the ANC out. Problem solved.

  • Julian - 2011-11-25 13:55

    News24, my comments are disappearing. Have i done something I shouldn't?

  • Eric - 2011-11-25 14:09

    What's next - the "Extension of Voting Rights" Bill? The ANC certainly learned well at the feet of the NP!

  • Silvana - 2011-11-25 15:38

    They are preparing to defend their secrecy bill.

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