The judiciary is not guilty of interfering with the other arms of government, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said on Thursday.
“As the judiciary, we obviously don’t think that we are overreaching. But you can’t always be the best judge of yourself,” he told reporters after a meeting between several judge presidents and the executive.
Mogoeng said the matter would require further discussion and benefit from input from other arms of state, the media, and academia.
President Jacob Zuma, who chaired the historic meeting, said it was agreed that the executive and judiciary would exercise caution when making public statements critical of one another.
“This should not happen that people find it easy just to criticise without specifics.”
Mogoeng said it would be arrogant of the judiciary to say that anybody who was not a judge should not question how it did its work.
“It is the way we question that matters to us,” he added.
The meeting, the first of its kind since 1994, was convened at Mogoeng’s request following what he called “unfair attacks on the courts”.
Zuma said it was agreed that court orders should be respected and complied with. He did not elaborate or refer to the government’s failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The government ignored an order handed down by the High Court in Pretoria on June 15, instructing it to arrest Bashir while he was in South Africa attending an African Union summit. He was allowed to leave the country. The International Criminal Court wants him to stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur.
In July, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe expressed concern about “judicial overreach”.
“There are already commonly expressed concerns that the judgments of certain regions and judges are consistently against the state, which creates an impression of negative bias,” Mantashe said.
Zuma said there was a “frank and cordial exchange of views” at the meeting. News24