Several civil society organisations have slammed Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s recent critique of the justice system as a “shameful exploitation by the politically elite”.
A joint statement from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), Corruption Watch, Defend our Democracy Campaign, Freedom Under Law (FUL), Helen Suzman Foundation, and Judges Matter labelled Sisulu’s critique as an “extraordinary attack on South Africa’s justice system, its constitution, and the judiciary.”
“Although authored in her personal capacity, Ms Sisulu’s public utterances, made as a member of the Executive and as a high-ranking member of the African National Congress, must be repudiated in the strongest terms,” reads the statement.
It goes on to state that Sisulu’s demand for a judiciary overhaul “represents a dangerous and regressive call to render it responsive to the whims of a political elite.”
“Ms Sisulu’s attempt to sully the legitimacy of our constitutional order, and by extension the idea of the rule of law on which it is based, is shameful exploitation of the genuine plight of so many in our country.”
The organisations acknowledged Sisulu as a prominent, long-standing member of the government.
“She would have a uniquely clear view, of the deliberate restructuring of the South African state to serve the interests of a political class subset at the expense of ordinary South Africans, during the years of State Capture,” said the organisations.
“She 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 but the most cynical exercise in blameshifting.”
“Ms Sisulu’s recent article registers against a sinister cacophony of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary by political actors,” said the statement.
Judges find it difficult to respond to scurrilous attacks such as that authored by Sisulu.
The nature of their office typically demands they maintain a dignified silence in the hope that decency and principled commitment to the values of the Constitution will prevail.
“When those values are threatened, civil society is, however, obliged to speak out. We do so now, collectively deploring Ms Sisulu’s attack on the Constitution and the judiciary,” said the organisations.
“We are saddened and disbelieving that such attack would issue from a leading member of the party.”
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney