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Sat May 23 10:51:40 SAST 2015

Zuma leaves us none the wiser with his mixed messages

The Times Editorial | 02 November, 2012 00:06

The Times Editorial: What is it with President Jacob Zuma and the courts? The president, who has embarrassed himself on several occasions with unfortunate comments about the judiciary, was at it again yesterday.

Tacitly endorsing the highly controversial Traditional Courts Bill which critics, including senior ANC leaders, believe will have the effect of oppressing millions of rural women, Zuma urged chiefs not to buy in to the legal practices of whites.

"Prisons are done by people who cannot resolve problems. Let us solve African problems the African way, not the white man's way," Zuma told a cheering House of Traditional Leaders.

He ploughed blithely on: "Let us not be influenced by other cultures and try to think the lawyers are going to help . . . They tell you they are dealing with cold facts. They will never tell you that these cold facts have warm bodies."

We know Mangaung is just weeks away and politicians will do just about anything to be re-elected, but we call upon the president to explain to the nation what exactly he meant by these remarks.

After all, it was his party, the ANC, that negotiated South Africa's constitution - the bedrock of our legal system and regarded as one of the most progressive in the world.

In February, during an interview on a government decision to review the Constitutional Court to ascertain whether its decisions were contributing to transformation, Zuma seemed to go a step further, suggesting that the top court's powers were up for review, and questioning the logic of having dissenting judgments.

He has also suggested, on more than one occasion, that the courts should not tell the government how to run its affairs.

Some aggressive spin-doctoring by his aides might have undid some of the damage, but Zuma's remarks yesterday can not have done his case any good.

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