Stop smearing the judiciary
2 March 2021
Readers of this column are not used to applause for Cosatu, for the SACP and for President Ramaphosa. So, here’s a first. Cosatu president ZingiswaLosi recently stated that the labour federation supported the work of the Zondo Commission. She said, “Those who are found to be in contempt of the commission and other courts of law must be dealt with according to the law.”
The SACP condemned the attacks on the judiciary and so, commendably, did the President. He has only earned half a clap in that he received the Mufamadi Commission report for two years in which it is alleged that there was a programme by the State Security Agency (SSA) to subvert the judiciary and that huge amounts of public money were paid monthly to David Mahlobo, minister of State Security, for handing to then President Jacob Zuma and to bribe judges.
Instead of acting, Ramaphosa has done nothing, even going so far as to reappoint Mahlobo to the Executive as a deputy minister. Has he no shame?
The acting director-general of SSA told the Zondo Commission that there was strong evidence that at least one judge had been bribed. If this is so, why has this strong evidence not been handed to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by Ramaphosa? I served on the JSC until the ANC removed me as the opposition representative and replaced me with Louis Luyt in a move, justified at the time by ANC chief whip, Tony Yengeni, as being “nothing personal, Douglas; it’s just politics.” Despite that experience I have had no reason to doubt that the JSC would act, if for no reason other than to protect the good name and reputation of the rest of our judges.
The politics of the smear, as practised by Julius Malema in Parliament recently, when he generalised an attack on the judiciary, brings not just the guilty under suspicion, it smears every member of the judiciary, including those of unimpeachable integrity. He was following on the disgraceful attack by Zuma, the former president, who likewise smeared the whole judiciary.
Why do these two paragons of virtue, despite the fact that both of them face criminal charges and will appear in court sooner or later, not realise the huge damage they are doing to our country? Undermining confidence in the judicial system should be regarded as a treasonous act. That is so because it undermines the Constitution of South Africa and destroys the faith of our people in the honesty and integrity of the many good women and men appointed to serve in our Courts.
Zuma has no reputation left, so one expects little of him and most of his friends, many of whom are totally discredited and disreputable, like Carl Niehaus, but Malema, Juju to his friends, and Zuma’s new best friend, leads a party supported by 10% of the voters. Worse, is that he is a member of the JSC, with the opportunity and, indeed, the duty of reporting the conduct of the judge or judges about whom he has knowledge to both Chief Justice Mogoeng and to the JSC. The forthcoming meeting of the JSC would be the ideal opportunity to do so. Let’s see if he does.
If Juju fails, the whole country will know that he has no evidence and the smearing of all the judges is aimed at shoring up his image and that of Zuma when they appear in court on criminal charges. He should be ashamed of himself. Stop smearing our judges generally and act against individuals who might be corrupt. Put up or shut up.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is: douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com