The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) has condemned attacks on the country’s judiciary in recent weeks, calling them “devious and despicable”.
This comes amid unsubstantiated claims by some politicians, including former president Jacob Zuma and EFF leader Julius Malema, who have alleged that the judiciary has been captured and used to wage political battles.
Zuma has made several allegations against judges as he faces contempt proceedings from the Constitutional Court for defying its order in January to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture. The former president accused the judiciary of political expediency and claimed some judges had received bribes.
EFF leader Julius Malema has also taken aim at the judiciary. Last week, Malema accused certain judges of receiving bribes from white businesses during the debate into the State of the Nation address (Sona).
“We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand against growing and now believable allegations that some prominent members of the judiciary are in the payroll of the white capitalist establishment,” Malema said last Tuesday.
‘Trumpian playbook of fake news’
Casac executive director Lawson Naidoo on Monday said the attacks on the integrity of the judiciary were aimed at the heart of the country’s constitutional order.
He said they were “straight out of the Trumpian playbook of fake news” – a reference to former US president Donald Trump who often decried legitimate news sources as bogus.
“The unsubstantiated allegations against unnamed members of the judiciary are both devious and despicable. Not a shred of evidence has been produced to justify the accusations, which are clearly in service of narrow political agendas,” Naidoo said.
“Straight out of the Trumpian playbook of fake news, they are designed to distract from the processes of our courts and the Zondo Commission of Inquiry which seeks to hold public officials to account.”
Casac demanded the allegations be withdrawn immediately and called on political parties to take action against their members who attack the courts.
“It is unconscionable for judges to be disparaged in pursuit of factional and party political battles. If there is any tangible evidence of wrongdoing by members of the judiciary, these should be brought before the Judicial Service Commission as a matter of urgency.”
The lobby group also called on the commission to prioritise the conclusion of testimony on allegations that some members of the judiciary received bribes from the State Security Agency (SSA) to influence the outcome of cases against Zuma.
“Otherwise rumours will continue to circulate, providing fertile ground for fake news to prosper,” Naidoo said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday also came to the defence of the judiciary.
The president condemned the attacks on the courts saying people – especially those in positions of power – should not make such claims without presenting evidence.
“There are clear processes established in law to deal with allegations of misconduct against members of the judiciary.
“Anyone who has evidence of any wrongdoing by any judge should make use of the avenues provided in our Constitution and in our law to ensure that appropriate action is taken,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter.