The judiciary was the subject of a recent mass prayer meeting for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, where female judges were warned about their “questionable judgments” and that this “would not be tolerated ”.
“If they are going to take decisions that make us question the authenticity of the judgments they make, we are going to have a problem with that,” ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini told journalists outside the KwaMhlanga showgrounds in Mpumalanga on Friday, where the mass meeting had taken place.
She said female judges should not forget who paved their way to such positions, saying it was the struggles of the likes of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who’d sacrificed “for them to be judges”.
Among Mkhwebane’s latest of several court defeats was the judgment delivered in the High Court in Pretoria in July.
In that matter, Judge Sulet Potterill interdicted Mkhwebane and her office from enforcing the remedial actions contained in her report on the SA Revenue Service’s so-called rogue unit against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan had approached the high court to suspend and interdict the enforcement of Mkhwebane’s remedial orders, pending the final determination of a review application by Gordhan to be determined at a later date.
Meanwhile, Mkhwebane made an about-turn last week and abandoned her Constitutional Court application for leave to appeal against the ruling.
Dlamini, a known Jacob Zuma ally who had served in his Cabinet as social development minister, said the meeting was particularly unhappy about judges’ comments that Mkhwebane was talking nonsense, did not know what she was doing and that she did not understand the constitution.
“We cannot allow women to be muzzled at all times. Because it has been happening, and it is beginning to be a culture and practice of those in power to muzzle women they see as powerful and forthright and not afraid in the face of challenges,” she charged.
The leader of the African People’s Convention and former chairperson of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), Themba Godi, supported this view on the judges, saying the judiciary was not immune to criticism.
“Our principle is that the sovereign authority lies with the people and it is the voice of the people that should be final. Judges are human beings.
“They cannot be above criticism. They cannot be above accountability. Whatever they say or do, they must expect that we, the public, will have a view,” he said.
Godi added that they “were concerned” about the kind of language that was being used about Mkhwebane and that there was “a lack of focus in the interpretation of the law”.
Vuyo Zungula, president of the African Transformation Movement, said the meeting was aware that parliament was preparing guidelines to remove Mkhwebane.