Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says the judiciary is being criticised “unfairly and in an unwarranted manner”, adding that personal attacks on judges should be condemned.
Lamola was speaking at the special ceremonial session of the Constitutional Court to mark Justice Edwin Cameron’s retirement, on Tuesday.
“I have no doubt in my mind that had it not been for [an]… independent judiciary as envisaged by [those] ready to govern, that our fiscus would have looted and depleted to a total collapse,” he said during his address.
“Today the judiciary is being criticised unfairly and in an unwarranted manner. We must condemn such kind of criticism – personal attacks on our judges, and some unwarranted unfair criticism.”
He said criticism aimed at the judiciary must be fair, informed and balanced.
He said criticisms of the judiciary should be to help society better understand what its role should be as well as to help society to move forward.
“Unwarranted attacks on the judiciary does not help the judiciary with any construction and it must be condemned because it may impugn on the reputation of the well-established reputation of our judges and of our judicial system in this country.”
Lamola hailed Justice Cameron as a role model to many and that he had managed to identify with HIV activists as well as the LGTBI community.
“In short there is no vulnerable group in South Africa that you did not play a role to advocate for their rights.”
Speaker of National Assembly Thandi Modise took to the podium, saying that Cameron was one of the few who have contributed to “our so young” democracy.
She also made reference to the killing of Gugu Dlamini who was stoned to death by a gang in her neighbourhood in KwaZulu-Natal.
She said Dlamini died because she chose to reveal her HIV status on radio.
“The calm and deliberate public stance by Justice Cameron to challenge the negative perceptions and stigmas around HIV and Aids, to stand alone in his field to educate and lead the battle against HIV and Aids could not have come at a better time,” Modise said.
Cameron contracted the virus in the late 1980s and revealed that he was HIV-positive in 1999. He was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 2008 by then-acting president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Modise also told Justice Cameron that his public declaration earned him respect and admiration.
She also added that the real beneficiaries of this stance were the “faceless” thousands of families affected by Aids.
“That declaration eased the burdens of secret pain and helped lift shame and indignity brought by the ignorance and fear. Our nation could begin to breathe.
“We understood what you were thinking when we started following the logic in your judgments in the various courts, we realised that Judge Cameron was, and still is, an activist judge – an advocate for freedom of expression and association.”