Ronald Lamola. Picture: VATHISWA RUSELO/Sowetan
Ronald Lamola. Picture: VATHISWA RUSELO/Sowetan

If the independence of the judiciary is not respected, SA will slide into a “banana republic”, justice & correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has said. 

The judiciary has been under renewed attack since judge Dhayanithie Pillay issued a warrant of arrest for former president Jacob Zuma after he failed to appear in court last week and his legal team did not provide the judge with a medical certificate that she deemed sufficient. 

The warrant was withheld until Zuma’s next court appearance on May 6.

Different structures of the disbanded ANC Youth League jumped to Zuma’s defence. The Free State branch, for example, was quite threatening and said it would provide an address where Zuma could be found in May. 

“We shall be waiting in numbers for them, and we shall welcome them in a manner and character they shall never live to explain,” the Free State youth league said. 

The task team governing the youth league until it goes to its next conference also offered its views, warning the judiciary “and its friends” not to threaten the peace of SA. 

“Do not threaten the patience of our people. If you start a fire, you are bound to see flames,” the task team said.

Lamola is part of the task team.  

In an interview with Business Day on Friday on the sidelines of an event welcoming newly appointed magistrates, Lamola was adamant he would not speak in an ANC capacity but in his capacity as minister. 

Lamola is also a member, by virtue of his position as minister, of the Judicial Service Commission, which recommends judges for appointment and deals with disciplinary issues relating to judges. 

Lamola said court decisions must be respected and that it was the role of all members of society to protect and defend the judiciary’s independence.

“If you don’t protect and defend the independence of the judiciary, you are going to slide into lawlessness, you are going to slide into a banana republic. You are going to slide into many other societies where it has been proven that the judiciary becomes scared to do their job and becomes threatened by all kind of things. It does not take society anywhere,” Lamola said.

He said some of the comments were unfortunate and the judiciary should always be protected. He said if anyone did not agree with a judgment, there were checks and balances in place to deal with it. 

Lamola said criticism should be fair, balanced and based on facts. 

He added that the courts relied on the public’s will to enforce the orders, as a judge cannot go out and do it. 

“Any unfair criticism undermines the fact that we must respect court orders and decisions,” Lamola said.

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