More criticism of minister Lindiwe Sisulu for her 'attack' on the judiciary

ANC veteran and tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
ANC veteran and tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: GCIS

Civil society organisations have criticised tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu for her “attack” on the judiciary in an opinion piece published last week.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, Corruption Watch, Defend our Democracy Campaign, Freedom Under Law, Helen Suzman Foundation and Judges Matter lambasted Sisulu. 

Their criticism comes after the government, through minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele, distanced itself from Sisulu's views. 

In her piece Sisulu decried the lack of transformation and economic reconciliation. She argued against the constitution, saying SA has legitimised wrongdoing under the umbrella of the rule of law. After decades of democracy, she said, Africans manage poverty while others manage wealth. 

“What we have witnessed under the constitution and the rule of law since 1994 has been co-option and invitations to political power brokers to the dinner table, whose job is to keep the masses quiet in their sufferance,” she wrote.

Sisulu is seen as a potential presidential candidate to challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa in the run-up to the ANC electoral conference later this year.

The organisations said Sisulu's views were an extraordinary attack on SA's justice system, constitution and the judiciary. 

“Though authored in her personal capacity, Sisulu’s utterances made as a member of the executive and a high-ranking member of the ANC must be repudiated in the strongest terms.

“Her demand for overhaul of the judiciary represents a dangerous and regressive call to render it responsive to the whims of a political elite. 

“The foundation of our constitutional democracy rests on the rule of law, which depends for its health and tenacity on an independent and impartial judiciary at all levels.” 

Calls to pack the courts with people who would prioritise political expediency over legal principle represent a threat to the judiciary’s ability to uphold the constitution.

To attempt to blame the judiciary for their failures is the most cynical exercise in blame-shifting. It bears noting that Sisulu’s article registers against a sinister cacophony of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary by political actors. 
Joint statement

"Sisulu’s attempt to sully the legitimacy of our constitutional order, and by extension the rule of law on which it is based, is a shameful exploitation of the genuine plight of so many in our country,” reads the statement.

“As a prominent member of government for a quarter of a century, Sisulu would have had a uniquely clear view, during the years of state capture, of the deliberate restructuring of the state to serve the interests of a subset of our political class at the expense of ordinary South Africans, especially the poor and vulnerable who daily suffer economic deprivation.”

Sisulu had argued for an overhaul of the justice system, which she said did not work for Africa and Africans. 

The organisations said Sisulu knows, or should know, that it is not the judiciary which legislates and implements government policy, but parliament and the executive.

“To attempt to blame the judiciary for their failures is the most cynical exercise in blame-shifting. It bears noting that Sisulu’s article registers against a sinister cacophony of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary by political actors. 

“These appear intended only to foreclose on the prospect of accountability for crimes, malfeasance and other wrongdoing associated with public office.

“Judges find it difficult to respond to scurrilous attacks such as that authored by Sisulu. The nature of their office typically demands that they maintain a dignified silence in the hope that decency and principled commitment to the values of the constitution will prevail.”

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