NEWS & ANALYSIS

Ramatlhodi's tactics dirty - Dene Smuts

DA MP says ANC deputy minister is attempting to discredit the judicial system

Tyranny of the majority: Ramatlhodi gets dirty and discredits the courts

Adv Ngoako Ramatlhodi, in his latest attack on the judiciary, is descending to dirty tactics (see Times report).

No longer content with dictating a doctrine of judicial restraint to the courts (as he did in an April article this year) he now discredits them by suggesting they are allowing themselves to be misused by a "minority tyranny", namely the Democratic Alliance (DA).

His remarks are framed as an attack on a political party but in fact he attacks the impartiality of the judges, suggesting they are partisan and thereby discrediting them. He calls the DA the leader of a "new tyranny". Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande recently said much the same thing, accusing the print media of conducting a huge liberal offensive against our democracy. The clear implication was that the press is in cahoots with the DA.

Both Ramatlhodi and Nzimande are democratic centralists and therefore believe in the tyranny of the majority: every institution must be controlled by the one party which runs the state. It is therefore unthinkable to them that the courts or the press should be able to rule or write against the government.

That is why Ramatlhodi, in his attack on the Constitution last year, described the separation of the powers between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of state as a fundamental concession by the ANC during negotiations and claimed it "emptied" the executive of power.

Ramatlhodi has now launched his "second transition". He described the ANC march on the Goodman Gallery as the start of that second transition. Secretary General Gwede Mantashe claimed victory over the Constitution by proclaiming that the ANC had won on the street what could not be won in court.

Both would do well to contemplate Thomas Jefferson's "sacred principle": "that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression."

The courts are under a Constitutionally imposed duty to review executive action for such reasonableness. And the DA has a duty to take irrational decisions on review whenever it is in a position to do so.

When Ramatlhodi said in Upington on Wednesday night "I have seen now in our country the courts are being used to replace the executive", he was echoing President Zuma's 2011 statement that " we must not get a sense that there are those who wish to co-govern the country through the courts, when they have not won the popular vote during election".

The people of South Africa value their Constitution. The ANC is in for a rude surprise if it tries to tamper with the fundamental principles of its text.

Statement issued by Dene Smuts MP, DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, June 7 2012

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