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LISTEN | Lindiwe Sisulu 'will not stop' attacking judiciary and constitution

Tourism minister insists her controversial open letter 'flew above the heads of leaders', particularly Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi

21 June 2022 - 15:49
Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu says she will not stop criticising the judiciary. File photo.
Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu says she will not stop criticising the judiciary. File photo.
Image: EDREA DU TOIT

“I am not going to stop, I am going to continue,” says minister of tourism Lindiwe Sisulu on her sustained offensive against the country’s constitution and judiciary.

Sisulu was addressing a virtual Youth Month event organised by the Unisa Law School on Tuesday. In her speech she resuscitated her controversial letter that launched an unprovoked attack on the country’s constitutional order. In the letter, she labelled some African jurists as “house Negroes”.

Sisulu said she is still puzzled by the backlash that followed the open letter but remained firm that her views were correct. She said she would never stop calling for reforms to the constitution, which she insists must be critiqued “as a living document” and believes members of the judiciary are not immune to criticism.

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Her letter was an expression of observations made over time about what she holds as problematic aspects of the country’s constitution and judiciary.

She says those who accuse her of disrespecting the constitution are talking “rubbish” and fail to engage the content of her argument.

The letter, which wreaked havoc upon its release, was “misunderstood” and all who read it negatively did so because they could not comprehend its substance.

She singled out Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi as having been among those who criticised her because it “flew above their heads”.

 “When the furore arose from all around, I was certain that, with all the negativity and deliberate misinterpretation, the backlash was largely a political one,” charged Sisulu.

“I was certain that they did not understand the article and I am certain it flew over the heads of the leaders who were out there castigating me, for instance the Cosatu president, I do not think she understood a bit of what was written there.

“It was just an incredible tsunami and [my critics] were vulgar. I have been accused of not respecting the constitution and that is rubbish.”

Sisulu said criticising the constitution was allowed in a democracy, adding that the document was not perfect and should be amended from time to time.

Mine is not a view that seeks to play to the gallery, it is rather one that comes from practical experience
Minister of tourism Lindiwe Sisulu

In her view, it was an anomaly for the constitution to largely mirror laws that were used to oppress Africans during apartheid. It was more problematic that some “apartheid judges” crossed the 1994 line to the democratic era without repenting on judgments they handed down during apartheid, she said.

It was high time for all in the legal fraternity, from judges to lawyers, black and white, to have honest conversations about their interpretation of the constitution, and the law in general, and free themselves from “mental colonisation”.

Said Sisulu: “I have used my freedom of speech to express my views from an African perspective and I stick to my views. They are not informed by party slate politics but by my own experience in government, from my experience under apartheid and my own experience in imprisonment and I have spent the better part of my life in those conditions.

“Mine is not a view that seeks to play to the gallery, it is rather one that comes from practical experience. I penned my thoughts in respect of the sorry state of black people, particularly black Africans, under our much-praised constitution.”

Sisulu said her strong views about the country’s constitution were not part of a presidential campaign towards the ANC national elective congress in December.

This despite her being touted among contenders for the top job.

Sisulu was not even certain yet, she said, that she will avail herself to stand, a decision she will communicate publicly once she has made up her mind.

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