SA courts 'remain strong'

2009-01-24 10:32

Cape Town - President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday that South African courts remained independent despite political battles ahead of general elections, with the presidential frontrunner dogged by graft charges.

"Recent assertions in the local and international media that the judiciary is being undermined are untrue and without basis," Motlanthe told an international conference of chief justices and supreme court presidents from around the globe.

But he said that debate remains over the balance of power among the branches of government.

"One of the challenges we face today is that of achieving a common understanding of the meaning of judicial independence and the boundaries of seperation of powers," he said.

South Africa is widely seen as having the most progressive constitution in the world, implemented in 1996, two years after the fall of white-minority apartheid rule.

However concerns over judicial independence have mounted in recent months as ruling party boss Jacob Zuma battles corruption charges, with his supporters attacking judges as "counter-revolutionary".

Hardline supporters of Zuma insist he will be president after general elections expected as early as April, regardless of the graft case.

South Africa's Chief Justice Pius Langa told the conference that South Africa's constitution had played a fundamental role in advancing democracy.

He said constitutional courts ensure "that the abuse of power must be prevented at all costs".