Zondo says Sisulu's insult of black judges is unacceptable

'Poor analysis does not refer to any judgments'

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has lashed out at cabinet minister Lindiwe Sisulu following her criticism of the judiciary.
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has lashed out at cabinet minister Lindiwe Sisulu following her criticism of the judiciary.
Image: KOPANO Tlape

Acting chief justice Raymond Zondo says it would be regrettable if tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu was allowed to get away with her recent attacks against the judiciary, the constitution and the rule of law.

Zondo was responding to Sisuslu’s controversial article in which she launched a blistering attack on black judges, whom he accused of being “mentally colonised” and of being “settled with the worldview and mindset of those who have dispossessed their ancestors".

Sisulu called for the overhaul of the justice system and a relook at the “neo-liberal constitution with foreign inspiration”, which was interpreted by judges who have “no African or Pan African inspired ideological grounding” and ruled against their own.

While saying he would not tell what President Cyril Ramaphosa or parliament had to do about Sisulu’s bashing of the judiciary and the rule of law, Zondo said he expected a line to be drawn in the sand and her conduct to be declared unacceptable.

“It should not be acceptable in a constitutional democracy such as ours that a member of parliament and the executive should wake up one morning, without any facts, just write an article and insult all African judges from the highest court in the land,” Zondo said.

Sisulu is expected to throw her hat in the ring for the ANC presidency as the party prepares to go to its national elective conference later this year. She is said to enjoy the backing of the RET faction within the party, which is aligned to former president Jacob Zuma. The Zuma faction has been critical of the judiciary.

Zondo described Sisulu’s missives as an unprecedented insult against the judiciary and African judges in her articles, which has also generated widespread condemnation from civil society organisations and government.

“It is rich in insult but very poor in substantiation and in any analysis because it does not refer to any judgments, be the judgments [that] judges of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal or the high court have given which have been analysed in order to produce the conclusions that she produces. There are no facts which have been put up by Ms Sisulu,” Zondo said.

He said it was most regrettable that the attacks came from a national executive committee member of the governing ANC and a senior member of both parliament and the executive.

“Ms Sisulu has insulted us and we as the judiciary have done nothing other than doing our job. We take the oath that guides our work and we take that oath seriously. If some people don’t like the decision we take in accordance with that oath that is their problem. We will not change that,” he said.

He warned that the attacks by Sisulu as a senior public figure would likely give rise to citizens losing confidence in the courts and resorting to extrajudicial means of resolving disputes .

“By insulting the judiciary and black judges in this way, she is creating a situation where some citizens might well say they are not taking their disputes to court and they might have less respect for the courts and their orders because she says these black judges are basically puppets of their masters,” Zondo said.

Zondo said he was expecting Sisulu to “have the decency to withdraw the insult that she has hurled at the judges” and apologise.

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