Columns 14.3.2017 05:31 am

Constitutional Court must bite back on the grants crisis saga

The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, 6 May 2014, rules an application declared part of the Sexual Offences Act unconstitutional, to be constitutionally invalid. Picture: Valentina Nicol

The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, 6 May 2014, rules an application declared part of the Sexual Offences Act unconstitutional, to be constitutionally invalid. Picture: Valentina Nicol

Let’s face it, our current breed of politicians have shown us time and again that they can, and will, ignore the ConCourt when it suits them.

As the Sassa waters get murkier and murkier, it has become almost impossible to take any positives from the saga. With each passing day it becomes more than clear that the manufactured crisis benefits someone and in the absence of anything else besides money, the only deduction we are led to make is that the country was brought to the brink for someone’s continued monetary benefit.

The CEO of the Sassa entity, Thokozani Magwaza, has come out and said that his principal, Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, has actively blocked him from reporting back to the Constitutional Court.

There are allegations of Michael Hulley being involved in the saga, when we only know of him as the president’s lawyer.

While it looks as though Dlamini’s wishes will be granted and CPS will be forced down everyone’s throats – including the ConCourt – her wilful ignorance of a court ruling may have inadvertently brought about a silver lining to this whole debacle.

The ConCourt has threatened that unless a reasonable explanation is given for the failure to implement its judgment passed in 2014, it will be regarded as contempt of court.

And everyone knows that contempt of court can lead to immediate imprisonment.

One of the biggest gripes that South Africans should have with the current government administration is that it has found it so disturbingly easy to ignore ConCourt  findings, as well as rulings by organs of state meant to provide oversight over their functioning.

It is my submission that lack of an inbuilt capacity to punish those who wilfully ignore the ConCourt’s judgments is a major weakness in the make-up of the court.

In other words, while the ConCourt  might have the biggest bark of all the dogs in the land, this administration has tested the dog and found that it has very small teeth.

As a result, President Jacob Zuma and the likes of Dlamini have taken the decision to ignore its ruling with an attitude that says: “What can the ConCourt  do to me?” And, indeed, until now, what has the court done to those that have shown it the proverbial middle finger?

In years to come, the way the president ignored the ConCourt over its Nkandla ruling that he and the National Assembly violated their oaths of office will be used as the perfect example of how a party can use its numerical majority to bully everyone into accepting that the constitution can be violated without repercussions.

Now that Dlamini has dared the court to show us its bite, let’s hope that its threat to hold someone, anyone, in contempt of court shows that the highest court in the land has more bite than it has previously shown us. In the absence of logical leadership from the head of government which, in the past, would have seen heads rolling over this debacle and many others, we have to cling to the hope that the legal men and women entrusted with safeguarding our constitution also have the stick to ensure compliance where it is not forthcoming.

The court should also heap the legal costs on to the person who wilfully ignored it, in their personal capacity.

Let’s face it, our current breed of politicians have shown us time and again that they can, and will, ignore the ConCourt when it suits them. The court has to find a way to bite back.

Sydney Majoko.

Sydney Majoko.

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