Civil society lambasts Sisulu's attack on the Constitution and the judiciary as 'dangerous and regressive'

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Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Photo: Edrea du Toit
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Photo: Edrea du Toit


Prominent civil society organisations and foundations have slammed Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s “extraordinary attack” on the Constitution and the judiciary as “dangerous and regressive”.

The organisations issued a strongly worded statement in response to Sisulu’s opinion piece in Independent Newspapers group, in which she condemned the “neoliberal Constitution with foreign inspiration” as a colonial construct; blamed the founding document for the failure of slow transformation and the continued grinding poverty among black South Africans.

She called for the overhaul of the judiciary, arguing that “in the high echelons of our judicial system are these mentally colonised Africans, who have settled with the world-view and mindset of those who have dispossessed their ancestors” and derided the concept of the rule of law as a colonial imposition.

The article has already received backlash from many quarters, including the Cabinet in which she sits.

Now the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, Corruption Watch, Defend our Democracy, Freedom Under Law, the Helen Suzman Foundation and Judges Matter have joined the fray. They stated that, although she claimed to be writing in her own capacity, she was a Cabinet minister and a high ranking member of the governing ANC.

Said the organisations: 

The very foundation of our constitutional democracy rests on the rule of law, which in turn depends for its health and tenacity on a fiercely independent and impartial judiciary at all levels. Calls to pack our courts with persons who would privilege political expediency over legal principle represent a clear threat to the judiciary’s ability to uphold the Constitution.

They accused her of sullying the legitimacy of South Africa’s constitutional order and engaging in “a shameful exploitation of the genuine plight of so many in our country”.

Condemning her blaming of the judiciary for the country’s socioeconomic ills, they said that she should know that it was Parliament and government that legislated and implemented policy and not the judiciary.

“To attempt to blame the judiciary for their failures is but the most cynical exercise in blame-shifting,” they said.

READ: Mondli Makhanya | Let’s use our Constitution

The formations added that the article “registers against a sinister cacophony of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary by political actors”.

“These appear intended only to foreclose on the prospect of accountability for crimes, malfeasance and other wrongdoing associated with public office.”

They said, while judges might find it difficult to respond to attacks, civil society was obliged to step in and defend the values of the Constitution when those were under threat.

“We do so now, collectively deploring Ms Sisulu’s attack on the Constitution and the judiciary, even as we are saddened and disbelieving that such attack would issue from a leading member of the party that rightly prides itself on having established that very document – the embodiment of democratic South Africa’s aspirations.”


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