Nothing wrong with ANC's criticism of court ruling – Masutha

Justice minister says he would err on the side of wanting to promote dialogue within society, rather than inhibit it

Cape Town - There is no rule against the state or citizens criticising court judgments and it aids democracy, Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Thursday.

"I would err on the side of wanting to promote dialogue within society, rather than inhibit it," he told reporters ahead of his department's budget vote.

He was asked to comment on the ANC's recent criticism of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria's ruling that President Jacob Zuma provide the Democratic Alliance with the reasons for his Cabinet reshuffle in March.

"I don't think there is a rule that judges and judgments may not be criticised if they are wrong. The judiciary itself criticises each other."

He cited a euthanasia case which eventually found its way to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which had "strong words" about how the lower court handled the matter.

"There will be criticism that will help to refine and improve our system. It may not always necessarily be a bad thing."

He said SA would continue to refine its constitutional democracy and that active citizenry and participation from both the state and citizens was required.

'Political posturing'

The African National Congress last week said Judge Bashier Vally's reason for ruling in favour of the DA's application that Zuma furnish them with his reasons was "politically motivated".

"The Constitution of the republic says the president must appoint ministers and deputy ministers and assign them roles. That decision, as well as the decision to dismiss a minister, is political," national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told News24.

"The judge's ruling and reasoning is political. This is a judge who has taken a particular political posture. It is not only judicial overreach, but undermines the judiciary itself."

Kodwa said the party would encourage Zuma to appeal Vally's judgment or have it reviewed.

Vally handed down a written judgment on March 9, in which he explained that his decision to rule in favour of the DA was because of a rule governing high courts which relates to reviews of decisions.

Rule 53 of the Uniform Rules of Court was established to regulate on a national basis the procedure to be followed in cases of all types of review, whether based on statutory or common law.

Vally said for the last five decades, courts had been able to perform their judicial functions because of this rule.

"Rule 53 was promulgated at a time when executive decisions were not subject to review," he said, referring to when SA was a parliamentary democracy during apartheid.

"Subsequently, with the enactment of the Constitution and the development of common law since its enactment, these decisions, as the president acknowledges, are subject to review."