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Judiciary a threat to democracy: Cosatu

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The judiciary has become a threat to South Africa’s democracy, Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said on Tuesday evening.

“We have seen how our hard won advances secured since the democratic breakthrough continue to face threats from our own judiciary which zigzags from making progressive rulings which asserts the new democratic dispensation and making rulings which clearly protects apartheid privileges and in many cases constituting judicial overreach and undermining the doctrine of the separation of powers,” Dlamini said. He was speaking at the Congress of the SA Trade Unions Gauteng congress in Johannesburg.

“The result of this has been to undermine the majority rule and to impose setbacks on development which favour the majority of South Africans, the majority of whom is the working class.”

Dlamini’s criticism of the judiciary comes amid Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s plans to meet with President Jacob Zuma to discuss the mounting criticism of the judiciary by the ANC later this month.

The meeting is scheduled for August 27.

Mogoeng said in July that he wanted to meet Zuma, following “unfair attacks on the courts”.

‘Gratuitous criticism unacceptable’

“Judges are open to criticism, but it should be fair, specific. General, gratuitous criticism is unacceptable,” he said.

Among those who have been openly critical of the judiciary is Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. He told senior managers from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) that there were “interesting” elements in the judiciary who “meet with characters to produce certain judgments”. He did not mention specific cases.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe also expressed concern about what he claimed was the judiciary interfering with the executive and the legislature. He called this “judicial overreach”. He made the remarks on July 2, following a five-day summit of the ANC, SACP, Cosatu, and Sanco.

Dlamini said Cosatu accepted the independence of the judiciary but was against some of its actions which it claimed blocked transformation or fair criticism of judgments.

“We want an increase [of] access to justice for all sectors of society, promoting a culture of judicial accountability. We are calling for the reorganisation of the court system to better reflect changes in the country’s provincial and demographic make-up,” Dlamini said.

Call for transformation

He called for transformation in the judiciary and legal profession, adding that qualified judges who supported the advancing of socio-economic rights of the working class needed to be appointed.

“Transformation of the judiciary must include, but not be limited to, achieving racial and gender parity, changing attitudes towards the aspirations and needs of the working class and the poor; progressive gender perspective; change in the language of the courts; access to and the administration of justice, and building a prosperous non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa that would not tolerate inequalities inherited from apartheid capitalism,” he said.

Dlamini also focused on Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.

He claimed that she had been positioned as a role player in a political scene which was “shaped against liberation forces”.

“It is becoming difficult not to associate the conduct of the public protector with the campaign run by the opposition in Parliament which is aimed at replacing the majority rule as part of the campaign to delegitimise the popular democratic government,” he said.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng recently requested a meeting with President Jacob Zuma to discuss continuous criticism of the judiciary from the ruling party. That meeting is scheduled to take place later this month. News24

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