Expatica news

Independence of South Africa’s courts safe: justice minister

South Africa’s judicial independence is safe, the justice minister said Tuesday, after President Jacob Zuma raised alarm by saying the powers of the nation’s highest court must be reviewed.

“The independence of the judiciary is not at stake,” Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters.

“I think the experience of this ANC government, especially since President Zuma came into office in 2009, is actually to enhance the powers of the Constitutional Court,” he added.

Zuma’s cabinet last year announced a review of the impact of the 11-member bench’s decisions, but the president was slammed earlier this month for saying he in fact wanted to review its powers.

“We don’t want to review the Constitutional Court, we want to review its powers,” Zuma, who has locked horns with the courts over the limits of presidential power, told The Star newspaper.

“There are dissenting judgements which we read. You will find that the dissenting one has more logic than the one that enjoyed the majority. What do you do in that case? That’s what has made the issue to become the issue of concern,” he added.

Radebe dismissed claims the review was a vendetta.

“It is not true that this document has been necessitated by the judgments that have been (issued) by our courts,” Radebe said.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will defend the independence of the judiciary at all costs, he added.

“This reassurance comes against the backdrop of irresponsible commentary … intended to instil fear that the ANC is hell-bent on revoking the fundamental rights and freedoms that many had fought and some died for in order for all of us to reap the benefits of a free society,” he said.

Created in 2004 after the demise of apartheid, the 11-judge court has the final say on constitutional matters, but a proposed amendment is before parliament that would extend its powers to all legal issues.