The General Council of the Bar (GCB) has condemned personal attacks that EFF leader Julius Malema made against the judiciary during his address on Women’s Day.
News24 previously reported that Malema had said that “education must be free of charge so a girl child can be educated and become a confident judge tomorrow, so we get rid of incompetent judges who are threatened by politicians that appear before them”.
He also said the current stock of judges were “traumatised old people”.
“We want women judges that are not scared of male politicians and that are not threatened by male white Afrikaner lawyers before them. We want the judges that are going to say the judiciary must be independent and not be influenced by who is the president.
“If judges judge according to who appears before them, they must know we will be left with no options but to take up arms, because there is no neutrality in SA. The judges can save democracy of SA by not being biased. A biased judiciary will force us into the bush, and we don’t want to go into the bush,” he said.
Malema’s comments followed just days after two judgments were handed down by women judges in matters where the EFF was an unsuccessful party, the GCB said.
The GCB said it respected the right to freedom of expression, including the right to criticise judicial decisions where justified.
GCB chairperson Craig-Watt Pringle SC said in a statement: “However, the judiciary is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. Its dignity and independence are to be respected and will be defended by the GCB when it comes under unwarranted attack.
“The GCB does not seek by means of this statement to debate the correctness or otherwise of the two judgments referred to above, or to attempt to stifle debate in that regard.
“We do, however, wish to express our concern that, instead of offering a reasoned critique of the judgments, Mr Malema launched a veiled attack of a personal nature on the individual judges who delivered those judgments, by implication referring to them as being incompetent, lacking in appropriate confidence, independence, and being politically motivated.”
The GCB said it was unfortunate that Malema’s inappropriate criticisms – which were directed not at the correctness of the judgments, but at the perceived personal characteristics of the judges who delivered them – evidently sought to instil fear in the judiciary by making unfounded allegations of favour and prejudice.
“Attacks of this nature undermine the independence of the judiciary, which is not only the very value that Mr Malema purports to rely upon, but one from which he and the Economic Freedom Fighters have themselves benefitted on a number of occasions over the years.”