Why the South African judiciary is under attack (again)
Once again the south African judiciary is under attack. This week, S’dumo Dlamini, president of Cosatu, launched a vicious attack on the judiciary. He says that the judiciary has become a serious threat to the democracy. He is not the only one that thinks that the judiciary should be radically reformed. The Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, told his senior staff that the judiciary is harbouring a “sinister” agenda. The Secretary General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe gleefully joined in the fray saying that the judiciary is interfering with the legislature and the executive. He even coined a phrase to express his opinion: “judiciary over-reach”.
Why is the judiciary under attack?
Well, there is no denying the fact that opposition parties and civil organizations such as Afriforum has been successful in bringing a wide variety of issues to the courts for consideration. Government ministers, heads of departments and many other senior officials have been exposed as corrupt, incompetent, arrogant and as liars. The courts have made several landmark rulings against the government, exposing new legislation as unconstitutional, rulings of the legislature as illegal and decisions of senior officials as invalid. It is only natural that the government is starting to feel as if it is under attack itself.
The president and some of his ministers and officials must think by themselves: “Who would have thought that these judges, the very ones that we appointed, would actually believe that they are independent and that they have the power to censure parliament. My goodness! They have even dragged the president into court! No, no. This will not do. A lapdog is not supposed to bite its master.” And so the ANC resort to their standard response when they feel under threat: they blame the troublesome judiciary of interfering with the freedom of the masses, of threatening the hard-won freedom of the working class and of destabilising the country. Luckily there is an easy solution: we reform the judiciary!
Ordinary South Africans will be well advised to watch this struggle very carefully. If the government succeeds in bringing the judiciary to heel we are in very big trouble. The judiciary is not a lapdog, it is a ferocious guard dog and that is what keeps our democracy safe.