'Sisulu opinion pieces did not cite single judgment by country's democratic courts' - Lamola

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Ronald Lamola (Photo: Jonathan Burton)
Ronald Lamola (Photo: Jonathan Burton)
  • Minister Ronald Lamola is the latest senior government leader to rebuke his tourism counterpart Lindiwe Sisulu.
  • Lamola lambasted Sisulu's latest opinion piece in which she attacked black judges.
  • He said Sisulu's utterances were a personal attack and insult to the judges.

"Referring to judicial officers by using crude racial tropes cannot pass off as a debate."

This was Justice Minister Ronald Lamola response in reference to a recent opinion piece by his tourism counterpart Lindiwe Sisulu.

Lamola on Friday joined other leaders and civil society groups who condemned Sisulu's utterances and accused her of insulting black judges and the rule of law, calling for her to withdraw what she had written and apologise.

"Aside from the attacks on judges, there is a pervasive narrative in our body politic which characterises the Constitution as a sell-out," said Lamola.

"... perhaps indeed, this is an opportune moment to debate our constitutional democracy further, especially as we have just marked the 25th anniversary of the adoption of our Constitution. But in so doing, we should be unequivocal about what passes as debate and what does not. 

"Referring to judicial officers using crude racial tropes cannot pass off as a debate. Attacking the very institution that is [there] to uphold the Constitution goes against the grain of everything that we wanted to change from before 1994," Lamola said.

READ | Sisulu crossed line with opinion piece not backed up by facts or analysis 

Lamola said:

Insinuating that judges who have assumed the high calling of judicial office in our democratic era are mentally colonised is a personal attack that cannot be condoned under any circumstances. In addition, calling any Black person - whether a judge or not - a 'house negro', is insulting.

Lamola emphasised that judges were required to uphold and protect the Constitution and the human rights entrenched in it and administer justice to all persons alike without fear, favour, or prejudice.

"The law can indeed be used in pursuit of evil - apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany are both cases in point, as their laws were technically legal because they were on the statute book, but they were morally wrong. 

"This is exactly what our Constitution set out to change. The Constitution removed parliamentary supremacy so that laws passed and any action by government is measured against the Constitution as a yardstick," said Lamola.

Lamola said Sisulu's opinion pieces did not cite a single judgment by the country's democratic courts.

He said:

Both Cde Lindiwe’s first and second articles do not cite a single judgment by our democratic courts in which oppressive or unjust laws in general or oppressive laws based on race and sexism are enforced.

"On the contrary judgments by our courts have brought about a much more equal society, where human dignity places a central role."

ALSO READ | ANC should call Sisulu to account over controversial comments - party veteran

"Most of the gains we have made as a nation since 1994 have been because of the Constitution. The Constitution and the judiciary have been instrumental in changing the landscape. Much has been realised. Much still needs to be done and improved.

"Criticism and freedom of expression are some of the important pillars of our democracy, but we need to exercise them with caution and responsibility to avoid destroying or paralysing important arms of the state.

"... any criticism against our courts should be on substance and with evidence. Sweeping statements or blanket attacks on our courts and judiciary are dangerous to our constitutional democracy," Lamola said.

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