Protect the judiciary
CHIEF Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's statements at the weekend that he would confront anyone who threatened the independence of the judiciary is quite reassuring, especially in the light of what appears to be concerted efforts by some politicians to weaken the judiciary and undermine the rule of law.
Over the past few months, a great deal of verbal attacks have been directed at the judiciary. Some of these from President Jacob Zuma himself, whose ultimate duty is to uphold the Constitution.
Zuma has gone to the extent of suggesting that some minority judgments made more sense than the majority opinions. Zuma has often confused his personal troubles with the law - they seem to be far from over - with the duty of judges to develop jurisprudence in line with the Constitution. Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Ngoako Ramatlhodi is another senior ruling party figure who has emerged as a judge of judges, launching unwarranted attacks on the Bench.
The media has also played its part in criticising those members of the judiciary who appear to be deviating from their constitutional obligations.
Justice Mogoeng has received huge blows from the media and civil society following his nomination by Zuma. Most of the harsh criticism focused on what appeared to be his leniency to child rapists while he was a high court judge in North West.
The criticism was so harsh that he could easily have developed a frosty relationship with the Fourth Estate.
But Justice Mogoeng has proven he can rise above criticism. He accepted an invitation to address the South African National Editors Forum on Saturday.
During the meeting he warned that consistent and extraordinarily harsh criticism of the judiciary could impact on the independence of judges.
Criticism levelled by the media is unlikely to impact on judges' opinions. Judges are, after all, not supposed to be influenced by public opinion.
But criticism levelled at judges by policymakers could have serious implications as it could be followed by steps to restrict judicial independence.
Justice Mogoeng said he has not come across real threats to the independence of the judiciary. The recent rhetorical attacks aren't a big deal.
This is also the view of most judges who have opted not to get involved in mudslinging with politicians.
Maybe he has a point. But he will be well advised to watch carefully some of the vituperations that could harm judicial independence.