Sisulu crossed line with opinion piece not backed up by facts or analysis - Zondo

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  • Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo says Lindiwe Sisulu's opinion piece last week contained only accusations and insults.
  • Zondo responded to Sisulu by saying she is a senior member of government and should have done better.
  • He described the letter as lacking in facts and analysis.

"No amount of intimidation by anybody is going to succeed in making the judiciary not to do their work."

This was the position of acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who on Wednesday called a media briefing to respond to an opinion piece penned by Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

"People can intimidate, insult us but we will not deviate from doing our job in accordance with our oath of office. If that hurts certain people so be it."

Zondo said Sisulu's utterance lacked substance and analysis, and were an insult to the judiciary, particularly black judges.

Part of her article read: "… the most dangerous African today is the mentally colonised African. And when you put them in leadership positions or as interpreters of the law, they are worse than your oppressor. They have no African- or Pan-African-inspired ideological grounding. Some are confused by foreign belief systems.

The State Capture Inquiry will apply for a further
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

"In America, these interpreters are called the House Negroes."

READ | 'Recklessness of highest order': Presidency 'strongly distances' itself from Sisulu's comments

Zondo hit back, saying "everyone knows interpreters of the law are judges".

"We, as the judiciary, have never said we should not be criticised. We are also saying even now we should be criticised. We accept that we may be criticised," he said, adding:

Criticism should be fair and have a proper factual basis. But this is not criticism. It is an insult to justices of the Constitutional Court, judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal, judge presidents of various divisions of the High Court and all African judges, who serve this country with distinction, determination to uphold the Constitution.

He added the article was most regrettable because it did not come from a young, inexperienced person, saying it came from a senior member of the governing party, senior MP and senior member of the executive.

Zondo said he expected Sisulu to have some facts to back up what she wrote.

"A very important aspect arises when you read her article, is that it is rich in insult but very poor in substantiation and any analysis. It does not refer to any judgments delivered. There are no facts put out by Sisulu to support what she said.

"There is no analysis of anything. It is [full of] accusations and insults to the judiciary.

OPINION | Chrispin Phiri: Lindiwe Sisulu's attack on Constitution - a distortion of ANC policy

"… it should not be acceptable in a constitutional democracy like ours that a Member of Parliament, executive should wake up one morning without facts, write an article and insult all African judges. It should not be acceptable.

"It is important to draw the line on acceptable and unacceptable conduct in the country. We don’t say we should not be criticised. Criticism should have a proper basis," Zondo said.

Chief justice position

"As the acting chief justice, I have certain responsibilities that must be carried out. If carrying those responsibilities out means that I am reducing my chances of being appointed CJ, that is fine.

TSHWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 14: The Minister of Hu
Lindiwe Sisulu.

"I will never not do my job just because I want to be appointed chief justice. I have no doubt that this is what I needed to do."

He added the judiciary could not tell Parliament and the executive what to do when one of them did what Sisulu had done.

"It is up to them to decide what to do.

"I find this conduct completely unacceptable, and it would be a pity if it was allowed to stand just like that. I want to say to all judges, particularly African judges insulted by Sisulu, to continue to do your work in accordance with your oath of office no matter what.

"No amount of attacks or insults should sway you [judges] to decide in any manner other than in accordance with your oath of office.

"More attacks may be on their way against us, but we must continue doing our work in accordance with our Constitution, and the people of SA are the ones who will judge us.

"Our judgments will speak for us," Zondo said. 

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