Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has hit back at Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for her controversial opinion piece in which she criticised the judiciary and constitution.
In an opinion piece published by IOL, Sisulu argued that the constitution was a “neo-liberal” document that had done little to bring about social justice for apartheid victims, and also seemed to be likening the country’s judiciary to what she called “house negroes” and said black politicians had become “black assets for colonised capital”.
She said in part: “The most dangerous African today is the mentally colonised African and when you put them in leadership positions as interpreters of the law, they are worse than your oppressor. They have no African inspired ideological grounding, some are confused by foreign systems… In America these interpreters are called the house negroes…”
Responding to the opinion piece on Wednesday, Zondo said it was clear Sisulu’s comments were directed at judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), Constitutional Court and other courts, especially those who are African.
He said the judiciary had never said it should not be criticised, only that the criticism should be fair and have proper factual basis.
“But this is not criticism, it’s an insult to the justices of the ConCourt, judges of SCA and judges of various divisions of courts and all African judges who serve this country with distinction, determination to uphold the constitution.
“A very important aspect of the matter arises when you read Sisulu’s article, it is rich in insults and very poor in substantiation in any analysis because it does not refer to any judgments that judges have given which have been analysed,” said Zondo.
“No facts were put up by her to support her theory, just accusations and insults to the judiciary. This is most regrettable because it’s not coming from a young person who is inexperienced but a senior member of the ruling party and parliament and executive. As far as I’m aware, she has been in Parliament since the 90s. That such a senior member who serves in two of the arms of the state – parliament and executive – should insult the judges who are African is most regrettable.”
Zondo said Sisulu should have at least provided “some facts” to back up her comments and “I doubt she has such facts”, because she would have published them.
“Sisulu has insulted us and we as the judiciary have done nothing other than doing our job. The judiciary will continue to do its job in accordance with the oath and if anyone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem and we will not change that.”
He further warned his colleagues in the judiciary of more attacks that would come their way, urging them not to be swayed by the attacks.
“The judiciary must be prepared for them.”
While the judiciary will not be dictating to Parliament on how to handle the comments made by Sisulu, Zondo said it would be a “pity” if the insults were “allowed to stand just like that”.
The judiciary will not be engaging Sisulu on the matter either, but hopes Sisulu “has the decency to withdraw the insults against African judges”.
“It should not be acceptable for a MP to insult all African judges.”