Mbete has no business fiddling with the judiciary

11 July 2017 - 07:35 By The Times Editorial
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. File photo.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. File photo.
Image: Masi Losi

As National Assembly speaker and ANC national chairman Baleka Mbete plants her flag in the sand for the ANC's top job in December, her comments in an interview with The Times take on special relevance.

Mbete shared her disquiet about what she believes to be political bias from certain judges. She spoke about how this had been raised at the end of 2015 in a meeting with President Jacob Zuma and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

"When there is a case that affects someone from the ANC, those cases would find their way [into the courts] and if they end up in the hands of certain specific judges, forget it, you are going to lose that case. It has nothing to do with merit, with correctness or wrongness. Some names pop up in the head already," she said.

These are serious allegations that baldly assert overt bias within the judiciary, but Mbete offers no specific proof in support.

Her comments are particularly unsettling coming on the heels of the ANC's policy conference which raised the prospect of regulating the relationship between the three arms of the state to prevent "overreach".

But this relationship is already clearly defined in our constitution and any move to tamper with that would appear to be fuelled by another agenda. The "overreach" is coming from people and institutions who have no business fiddling with the judiciary.

As the Office of the Chief Justice points out, any accusation of judicial bias can be dealt with already through the appeals process or through a formal complaint to the Judicial Service Commission.

Mbete's apparent ambivalence on this issue is concerning coming from a person putting herself into play for even higher office and influence.