FIRST TAKE | Walus court picket: Has the ANC finally lost its mind (and ability to lead)?

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Chief Justice Raymond Zondo delivered the unanimous decision to release Janusz Walus on parole after 29 years in prison.
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo delivered the unanimous decision to release Janusz Walus on parole after 29 years in prison.
Felix Dlangamandla

The judiciary is already under political pressure, and the last thing Chief Justice Raymond Zondo now needs is for the governing party to be protesting outside his door for implementing the rule of law, writes Adriaan Basson.

In what can only be described as crude and short-sighted populism, the ANC and its alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP, have announced that they will picket outside the Constitutional Court on Saturday to protest the court's ruling on the Janusz Walus parole matter. 

This is another low point in the ANC's continued decay as a once-proud liberation movement to a corrupt, immoral and failing political party.

Since 1994, unless memory fails me, the ANC has never protested outside the apex court of the land and the Chief Justice. This is an extraordinary and reckless moment.

Obeyed supremacy of the court 

In fact, the ANC was one of the leading architects of our constitutional dispensation, with people like Kader Asmal, Brigitte Mabandla, Marion Sparg, Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, Bulelani Ngcuka, Willie Hofmeyr, and many others leading the constitutional assembly that led to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Despite its many flaws, the ANC has never in 28 years protested a judgment by the apex court of the land, even when it lost. Even during the perilous Zuma years, the ANC and its representatives in government have obeyed the supremacy of the law and implemented or acted on court judgments, even when they disagreed with it.

That is what happens in a democracy where the rule of law reigns supreme.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, writing for a unanimous court, was at pains to explain in the judgment that the authors of the Constitution did not mean to exclude any person from the Bill of Rights when they drafted the seminal document.

"[W]hen the fathers and mothers of our constitutional democracy drafted our Constitution and included in it the Bill of Rights, they did not draft a Bill of Rights that would confer fundamental rights only on those who fought for democracy and not on those who had supported apartheid or who were opposed to the introduction of democracy in this country. They drafted a Bill of Rights that conferred fundamental rights on everyone, including those who had supported apartheid with all their hearts. Indeed, they drafted a Bill of Rights which conferred fundamental rights even upon visitors to our country so that, upon entry into our country, they begin to enjoy the benefits and protections of our Bill of Rights," part of the judgment reads.

READ | FRIDAY BRIEFING: Under siege - Concerted attacks on SA's judiciary should have us all worried

Rather than championing the supremacy of the law, and assisting society to get to grips with the Walus judgment – difficult to accept as it may be for some – the ANC has chosen the populist route, at a very high cost.

At a time when there is growing political pressure on the judiciary, and the country's best legal minds shy away from ascending to the bench (read my colleague Karyn Maughan's excellent essay on this topic here), the last thing Zondo and his colleagues now need is a protest by the governing party outside the doors of court.

Not legal

As if the pressure on Zondo for chairing the State Capture Inquiry was not enough, he now needs to deal with the governing party of the country seemingly refusing to accept a judgment by the highest court of the land.

Zondo's judgment is crystal clear that it was not legal for the minister of justice to have continued keeping Walus behind bars while he qualified for parole. Nothing less, nothing more.

READ | IN-DEPTH: 29 years in jail for Chris Hani's murder: Who is Janusz Walus?

As despicable as Walus' crime was, and as much as one has sympathy for Limpho Hani and her family being continuously retraumatised when this matter comes to court, there is simply no way to argue that the laws of the country should not be applied to one particular individual.

The ANC has never protested outside the Constitutional Court for serial rapists, murderers and fraudsters to "rot in jail". And when last did the party's Members of Parliament submit fundamental changes to Correctional Services Act, that governs parole?

This is a dangerous, cynical moment for the ANC to be protesting a judgment that their own administration must implement. The only possible explanation for this ridiculous picket could be the party's continued attempts to divert attention from its own governance failures that are becoming clearer by the day.

- Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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