DA federal council chair Helen Zille’s column "How Everyone Misreads the ANC" (On My Mind, September 16-22) is concerning for a number of reasons.
Zille is a respected and experienced political leader, and what she says matters. She’s also a communications specialist and so would understand the impact her writing could have on society.
SA’s democracy is fragile, and political leaders should look beyond their own party interest and be more circumspect when criticising institutions central to democratic values.
With no legal qualification, suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has previously stated that the judge got it wrong when a ruling went against him. EFF leader Julius Malema is known for openly criticising the judiciary. This doesn’t bode well for our democracy, where the courts are often called upon to resolve political failures. We have to guard against disrespect of these highly skilled, experienced jurists.
In terms of Zille’s argument:
- There’s no proof that there was a leak from the Constitutional Court to the ANC (even then, she tries to protect herself from criticism by mentioning scores of ways, other than through judges, that such a leak could occur);
- Even if the Electoral Commission of SA has been weakened to the extent that it hadn’t effectively prepared for the upcoming election, the Constitutional Court was not convinced the election should be postponed — upholding a vital pillar of our democracy;
- To reinforce an argument that the ANC is out to capture the judiciary is dangerous. It implies that highly respected jurists can be influenced in favour of the ANC;
- The impeachment matter against Western Cape judge president John Hlophe is a direct result of his colleagues feeling aggrieved that he raised a matter in a case they were hearing. This indicates how fiercely they believe in their independence;
- Most people were surprised at the position of outgoing chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on a number of matters, demonstrating his independence; and
- Though Zille makes reference to the Mufamadi report, it does not support her argument of judicial capture because, as she notes, the report did not say whether any judges were bribed.
There are many rogue elements within the state, but when all else fails we turn to the judiciary — and, so far, it has seldom disappointed. To put forward unproven theories about the judiciary is unfortunate and dangerous.
Wynberg, Cape Town
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