Growing outrage at Sisulu bashing constitution, justice system and rule of law

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
ANC veteran and tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
ANC veteran and tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: GCIS

Tourism minister and ANC national executive member Lindiwe Sisulu continues to receive backlash over her controversial article in which she bashed the constitution, the justice system and the rule of law.

On Wednesday, seven civil society organisations added their voice to a growing outrage over Sisulu's article published by Independent Media last week, calling for the overhaul of SA’s judiciary. Sisulu lamented that the constitution and current laws did little to economically uplift the black majority who had been victims of apartheid and colonialism.

She also took a swipe at black judges within the judiciary, remarking that “the mentally colonised African” was the most dangerous as they became worse than the erstwhile oppressors when put in “leadership positions or as interpreters of the law”.


Sisulu is seen as a potential presidential candidate to challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa in the run-up to the ANC electoral conference later this year.

The organisations said Sisulu's views were an extraordinary attack on SA's justice system, constitution and the judiciary. 

“Though authored in her personal capacity, Sisulu’s utterances made as a member of the executive and a high-ranking member of the ANC must be repudiated in the strongest terms.

“Her demand for overhaul of the judiciary represents a dangerous and regressive call to render it responsive to the whims of a political elite. 

“The foundation of our constitutional democracy rests on the rule of law, which depends for its health and tenacity on an independent and impartial judiciary at all levels.” 

Calls to pack the courts with people who would prioritise political expediency over legal principle represent a threat to the judiciary’s ability to uphold the constitution.

To attempt to blame the judiciary for their failures is the most cynical exercise in blame-shifting. It bears noting that Sisulu’s article registers against a sinister cacophony of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary by political actors. 
Joint statement

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac), Corruption Watch, Defend our Democracy Campaign, Freedom Under Law (FUL), Helen Suzman Foundation and Judges Matter have entered the fray.

The organisations characterised Sisulu's remarks as representing a clear threat to the judiciary’s ability to uphold the constitution.

“Ms Sisulu’s attempt to sully the legitimacy of our constitutional order, and by extension the idea of the rule of law on which it is based, is a shameful exploitation of the genuine plight of so many in our country.

“As a prominent member of government for a quarter of a century, Ms Sisulu would have had a uniquely clear view, during the years of state capture, of the deliberate restructuring of the South African state to serve the interests of a subset of our political class at the expense of ordinary South Africans, especially the poor and vulnerable who daily suffer economic deprivation,” the organisations said.

Sisulu is currently being punted as a contender for the ANC presidency later in the year and her latest remarks were viewed as part of her campaign and to appease the so-called RET faction in the ANC.

The organisations accused Sisulu of blame-shifting as they pointed out that it was parliament and the executive which she was part of that was responsible for legislating and implementing government policy respectively.

“Judges find it difficult to respond to scurrilous attacks such as that authored by Ms Sisulu. The nature of their office typically demands that they maintain a dignified silence in the hope that decency and principled commitment to the values of the constitution will prevail,” they said.

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