Thu Dec 08 16:22:12 SAST 2016

Authoritarian ANC resents courts' defence of rights

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2011-11-02 00:26:28.0
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image by: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

The Times Editorial: President Jacob Zuma has again shown his irritation with those who harness the power of the courts to, as he would have it, undermine the authority of his administration.

Zuma said in parliament yesterday: "The executive must be allowed to conduct its administration and policy-making work as freely as it possibly can.

"The powers conferred on the courts cannot be regarded as superior to the powers resulting from a mandate given by the people in a popular vote."

This is the second time in a matter of months that Zuma has expressed his frustration with the senior courts.

Two strong challenges to the Zuma administration have come from the Constitutional Court, the most recent being the announcement of an arms-deal inquiry as a sequel to the court case brought by activist Terry Crawford-Browne.

Then there is the Hugh Glenister victory, marked by the court questioning the legitimacy of the demise of the Scorpions investigative unit.

Since its inception, the Constitutional Court - seen by many as an activist court in defence of the rights of citizens - has played a vital role in testing compliance with, and upholding, the constitution, so it is hardly unexpected that it has ruled against various ANC governments since 1994.

Of great concern is that Zuma is far from alone in his admonition of the judiciary. Recently, the ANC's secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, said: "You can't have a judiciary that seeks to arrest the functioning of the government."

Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said in August that the c onstitution was being "dumbed down" into a narrow check-and-balance watchdog" and a defender of "existing powers and privileges".

These comments by senior ANC leaders are hugely problematic. Is it only a matter of time before the ANC does more than just talk about its unhappiness with our "impertinent" judiciary?

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