Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has ramped up public pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa and Parliament to act against Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for an opinion piece that she wrote in her personal capacity on the failure of post-democratic South Africa and the role of the judiciary.
Due to the separation of powers between the three arms of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – Zondo said on Wednesday that the judiciary could not dictate what action should be taken against Sisulu for the “unfair attack and insults” against sitting judges, but they would be monitoring the situation closely.
Zondo is among the leading candidates to become the new chief justice after the term of former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng expired. The others shortlisted for the post are president of the Supreme Court of Appeals Mandisa Maya, Constitutional Court Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga and Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo.
On Wednesday, Zondo said:
But, he said, “I want to say, I find this conduct on the part of a senior member of the ruling party, a senior member of Parliament, and a senior member of the executive completely unacceptable and it would be a pity if it was allowed.
“It should not be acceptable in a constitutional democracy that a member of Parliament and a member of the executive should wake up one morning, without any facts, just write an article and insult all African judges…”
It was important that we draw the line on conduct that is acceptable and conduct that is unacceptable, he said.
Sisulu – among the potential contenders to challenge Ramaphosa’s re-election as ANC president later this year – said on her Twitter handle that she had noted Zondo’s comments and would be consulting with her lawyers.
The EFF said Zondo had descended into political terrain as he tried to impress Ramaphosa so he could be appointed as the new chief justice, while the DA said the president should fire Sisulu.
RT @Queenin_M: [JUST IN] The #EFF reacts to ACJ Raymond Zondo’s briefing: “Zondo went on a repetitive tirade, framing a political discussion about the slow-pace of economic transformation in the country as an attack on the judiciary.” pic.twitter.com/Qbabq44WO5— City Press (@City_Press) January 12, 2022
In last week’s article, which Sisulu wrote in her personal capacity as a member of the governing ANC’s national executive committee, she mentioned that “the primary motivation for the evils of colonialism was and still is economic”.
“It is organised crime, the robbery of other people’s land and resources, as well as the exploitation and use of their labour. It is also about the reduction of these people to mass consumers and exclusion from the ownership of the factors of production and wealth creation.”
On the judiciary, she said:
“Today, 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. They are only too happy to lick the spittle of those who falsely claim superiority. The lack of confidence that permeates their rulings against their own speaks very loudly, while others, secure in their agenda, clap behind closed doors.”
On Wednesday, Zondo said that the extracts “crossed the line” and constituted an attack on and an “insult” to African judges, including those sitting in the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals and in the high court divisions:
He said the critique did not refer to any judgments that judges had given, which had been analysed to produce the conclusion that Sisulu produced.
“There are no facts which are put up by Sisulu to support what she is saying. There is no analysis of anything. It is just accusations; insults to the judiciary.”