The events of the past few months suggest that there is a concerted campaign to draw the judiciary out into a public fight with politicians over some of its decisions and how it conducts its affairs.
Just this week, the matter played itself out during an application by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to stop President Cyril Ramaphosa from suspending her from office and stop impeachment proceedings against her.
Mkhwebane’s lawyers tried to suggest that a mysterious text message by political commentator Ismail Abramjee, saying that the Constitutional Court would find against her, showed that judges were behind leaks of court decisions. But no evidence was advanced for this argument and it appeared that the entire SMS episode was a ruse and used as a distraction to delay legal proceedings.
Advocate Dali Mpofu also suggested that Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was colluding with other powerful forces, including Ramaphosa, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, NGOs and the media, to remove his client from office.
Just last week, senior ANC member Tony Yengeni lodged a complaint of judicial misconduct with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) against Zondo for allegedly backing Ramaphosa to gain a second term as ANC president through his report on the findings of the Zondo commission.
These allegations follow the circus witnessed during the JSC hearings to select the Chief Justice, wherein political agendas were at play. Our message to the Chief Justice would be to develop a thick skin and stick meticulously to his work. He should resist the temptation to be drawn into political battles. In fact, all judges should continue to apply the law without fear or favour and in line with our constitutional values. All should be equal before the law, even the judiciary’s fiercest critics.
All complaints should be processed fairly. But the judiciary should not be cowed into not exercising its powers. The bigger goal seems to be discrediting the judiciary entirely, and that should not succeed, especially based on the spurious grounds advanced so far by critics.